Beyond a Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity was a compilation of C.S. Lewis’ beliefs, in which he set aside definite doctrines. He stated, ”at the centre of each (religion) there is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks the same voice.” 

Many, by reading the book, have been encouraged to embrace Christianity even as he did. My purpose in writing is to look beyond what he believed, spoke, and wrote, to discover a greater depth, beyond a mere Christianity; for a mere Christianity will not suffice to proclaim and live the legacy God has bestowed on His children. When we try to make Christianity a common faith, we are in danger of dumbing down the power that Christ died to give us. We lose the essence of the faith that is by grace alone, the working of the Holy Spirit for revelation of the truths of God’s Word. When the gospel is watered down so that everybody can believe, we forfeit the wealth that comes only by personal relationship with the Father and Jesus, His Son. Christianity comes at a high price, the blood of Jesus Christ, and requires more from us than we are able to give. To receive the inheritance that is ours in Christ is a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit working through new hearts, drawn to and committed to Him. His grace does not relieve us of duty, but binds us to it and fulfills the requirement, whereby we experience this new life, a heavenly life above and beyond what most people know.

Others have written from Lewis’ theme, but from different perspectives. In the following articles (perhaps more) we will incorporate many facets of His kingdom that our heavenly Father reveals to us, through His Word and His Holy Spirit, in and through the life of His Son, Jesus Christ. Through as many of these as He will bestow His grace and blessings, we pray He will make clear HIs role as a loving heavenly Father, Creator, Redeemer and Life; His presence, power, His name, His kingdom and His will. These are His truth, promises and blessings for a people who know Him, fear Him, love Him, obey, worship, serve, praise, pray, and proclaim in power the good news of Christ, who are being transformed as living sacrifices and conformed to His image, bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, faith, meekness and temperance, holiness, righteousness, truth, grace, humility and Godliness.

This is to live the “abundant life” (John 10:10) in the “fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:19) ~ “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27)  here in this life, as He continues to prepare us for eternity with Him. True Christianity is separate from any other religion ~ and the reality of a holy life in union with our heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, by the power of His Holy Spirit. He reveals Himself to and in us, not as Someone, but as Jehovah, the Lord our God. He sires children of His own who are HIs image-bearers. Though not perfect, we are HIs off-spring through His Son, as He continues to lead us through an imperfect world, shining through us His holiness and humility.

Inexhaustible Goodness
God, Who Is Here
Weakness and Meekness

Endear and Endure
Three Powerful Words in the Chrisitian Vocabulary
The Right Man For the Job
A Holy, High and Heavenly Calling
Covenant Living and Giving
Seeing Is Believing
How Exciting is Your God?

What is Jesus Doing in Your Life?
Good Works
Peace and Contentment

Bound by Grace ~ Free to Love
Abiding in Light and Truth
Surviving in Enemy Territory

Thriving Under Oppression
His Utmost For My Highest
Radical and Riveted
Focus, Love and Rejoice
Arrows in the Hands of a Mighty God

Many Religions
There are many religions ~ religions for the body, religions for the mind, religions for the spirit and soul ~ of man. Nations are formed by their religions. Children are born and grow up in their religions. We live by what we know and are continually taught. Everyone has a religion, even if they cannot express it verbally. The mind of every person is a tablet, written on from their birth into this world.

In my autobiography, I express my birth as if being given a coloring book and a set of crayons. At every age and stage, I was given a new coloring book and a new set of crayons. My mind, heart and spirit took in everything I saw, heard and experienced, so as to live accordingly.  What I read and was taught became my religion. I was given a Bible, learned what was written there sporadically, from sermons in church, Sunday School, and vacation Bible school. The principles were taught in our home, but not verbatim. The golden rule was prevalent, with a general understanding of right from wrong, but not Biblically profound. Neither my parents, nor I, understood anything beyond what you can see and touch, although I had a sense of something more. Anything spiritual was beyond comprehension, and so, not taught.

Difficult times were accepted as normal, with only dim hopes of improvement in this life. “When We All Get to Heaven” was the favorite hymn sung in church, with the accompanying  hellfire and brimstone sermon. 

How I got from there to writing this treatise on a Christianity that is far and beyond anything I learned in my childhood, is based on a powerful act of God’s grace that overtook, overcame, and overrides everything I had been taught. This Christianity of which I speak is not man’s religion but from heaven, from God, revealing Himself as Creator and Redeemer of the human race. He reveals His plans, His work, His presence, His power, His sovereignty in the writings of the Holy Bible. These are all beyond the normal scope of human wisdom and living.

If we read casually, we will reap a crumb or two of the religion we are looking for. If we study hard and often, diligently seeking something to believe and live by, we may see some difference in our lives. We may even sense a religion to share with others. We may worship with others of the same faith, but, in essence, it is still only man’s religion. It is nominal, or what we think of as normal Christianity.

It is what the world sees, and it colors God and the church with only a slightly different tone than the world’s colors. 

Mere living is below the standards of God’s kingdom. It is settling for the world’s goods.  It is negating the faith given from and in a living God to settle for man’s ideas of life. In the days ahead, let us leave these thoughts of man’s idolatry and look heavenward to the Lord, our God and the only true religion of which He is the focus, our Lord Jesus as the center, and the Holy Spirit, among us and within each of us directing all things according to the will of the Father. By His grace, we will complete all that He has planned for these articles. Please pray for us as we pray for you the reader.

Father in heaven, our Lord and God, we thank you for all that you are, more than we can ask or think, for our Lord, Jesus, and for your Holy Spirit. We praise you for your Word, the truth of your Word, the authority of your Word, for your Living Word, Jesus Christ, commanded in us by the power of your Holy Spirit. Speak to the hearts of your children as you dwell within us. Make us aware, through your Word, written and Living within us, of something more than we have been told about you. Give us a deeper understanding of who you are, so that we know whose we are, so that we may continue to proclaim the legacy of your kingdom, to your glory and our joy. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Fran

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Emma’s Heart

From the age of three, Emma, our youngest grandchild, has actively shown the love of Christ in her heart; not anything she knew she was doing, but wherever she was, with Jerry and me, and especially with Mother. Emma was three years old; Mother was ninety-one, with dementia, living with us over four years. At the same time, we also cared for Emma and Olivia, our next oldest grandchild two days a week. 

This week, at the age of fifteen, Emma is in Haiti, with a mission group from her church.

Mother was there with her church thirty years ago.

Dear Father in heaven, Thank you for grace beyond measure to us as your children, putting within our hearts the love of Christ, which is the ministry you give us to share with others. We ask you to bless those who live in this love and desire to minister to others in His name. Thank you for loving us and filling us so that it spills over wherever we are. Use your Word through these to draw others to Christ. Bless the young who minister in His name this summer, for your glory and their joy. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Fran
Related article:Chasing Butterflies and Blowing Bubbles

 

Sleeplessness

Being awake at 2:30 this morning is a good time for me to write about the subject of sleeplessness.  I was in bed since 10:00 P.M. so I have slept. After 78 years, I am experienced and have learned to live with the occasional nights when it is difficult to fall asleep; or when I wake up early in the morning.

How we handle each of these episodes depends on how we view this state in our lives. At times, when younger, there were many different things going on that kept me awake; and I would worry, not only about the things, but about the sleeplessness.

I feel led to write about this dilemma. There seems to be an epidemic. There are sleep centers available for this problem.

First, I believe that it is a result of the condition of our world, which is enough to keep everybody awake.  Maybe we should all stay awake and pray for God to “rend the heavens, and come down; as the melting fire burneth; and make His name known among the adversaries” (Isaiah 66:1).

Our culture should not, however, keep us as God’s children awake and anxious.

Sleeplessness should not be the norm for the Christian.  Going through bouts of insomnia has been a learning and growing experience for me.  God’s word and Spirit have become more powerful in and through me during these times.  They have strengthened me to survive and thrive even when I have not had a good night’s sleep.  Many mornings I had to accompany with piano for a worship service after only a little sleep.  Colossians 1:9-14 became real as I meditated on Paul’s prayer for those of the early church.  He prayed that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Verse 10 in bold print was the word I needed for the day.  Sleep may have sufficed for me to serve, but sleeplessness was a means of grace to lay hold of God’s power. I have experienced more strength from Him when I needed it, than from a regular night’s sleep. 

I can speak here from a time when I was younger, plagued with insomnia; before my conversion.  My whole life was planned around my own desires.  Things were not working in my life as I had hoped.  There was no peace in my heart; sleeplessness was simply my nighttime restlessness.  The days were not much better than the nights.

The Whole Picture
In this short treatise I will attempt, by God’s grace, to address causes and solutions to this problem.  Not being a professional counselor or physician I speak only as I have learned.

How we sleep depends on how we live.  How we live does not depend on how we sleep.  Many excuses come from our not getting enough sleep.  Enough is not the same for every person. Some do not require as much sleep as others.

We should not be envious of those who can sleep anytime, anywhere, at the drop of a hat.  They are blessed in some ways that we are not.  But, we may, in our being awake, be blessed in other ways.  Christ may return while we are awake. Those who are sleeping may miss His first call.

So, at this point, let me encourage you, the reader, to look at your state of sleeplessness as God’s means of doing something in your life that you would not experience, otherwise.  God has a purpose for your insomnia, as for all things.  For the Christian, “everything works together for good, for those who love Him.  For those whom He foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the image of His dear Son  (Romans 8:28-29). God speaks to every dilemma in our lives.  It is all part of His working for our good and for His glory.

Awakeness and Awareness
Remembering that there is purpose in our being awake or sleeping, let’s look at some possible reasons for our not being able to sleep when we want to.  My list over the years have included occasional indigestion or illness, busy schedule, uncertainty, difficulty in relationships, finances, new plans, grief, overstimulation, unforgiveness, anger, jealousy, or other unconfessed sins.  Any of these, and others that you may know, easily displace the peace that God gives us as His children, in Christ.

Our awakeness may be the time for awareness of what we need to address in our daily living. God speaks in all ages and stages. We should ask for His wisdom; for what He wants us to know at every stage.  If we are not sleeping, we ask Him to make us aware of what we need.  If we cannot change what needs to be changed we pray that He bring the changes; or enable us to accept what cannot be changed.

We can break down my list and look at everything separately; but we will soon come to the same conclusion.  In everything God has His plans for us.  Awareness of what is keeping us awake is the first step that brings us to the Lord.  Presenting these of which we are aware to Him, wrestling in prayer, we will soon be tired and resting in Him.  Peace comes when all is given to Him.

Awareness of His Presence
It may be that these times are God’s planning for you to experience His presence. In the stillness and quietness of the night there is a solitude with which most people are not acquainted.   It is this sanctuary that God uses when we are not otherwise silent before Him. God can sometimes meet us here, when we are nor available during the day.  It may be to teach us not only to rely on Him for all things, His plans, His will, His way, but to establish a relationship that carries through the day and night.

Many nights I wake and wait for His presence; to know what special blessings He wants to give; for songs in the night come, especially when I am at peace with Him.

I have learned that all that I am is His, my waking and my sleeping.  He never sleeps so we can have that sweet fellowship anytime.  When I stopped fighting the sleeplessness, stopped counting sheep, and starting looking for Him to speak to me I no longer was concerned about sleeping.

Practical Habits
As I have gotten older I realize that patterns make a difference in our days and nights.  Even if we are at peace, trusting God in all things, in obedience of faith in all that we know; how we plan for sleep helps.  I do not sleep well when my evening has been hectic.  Overstimulation of any kind, talking on the phone for an extended time, caught up in a project, or anything unusual, will keep me from sleeping.  Reading God’s promises, prayer before bedtime and the review of a hymn or Psalm that we will sing next Lord’s Day is part of worship before bedtime.

Overeating at dinner or going to bed on an empty stomach are not good habits for me.  What I eat makes a difference.  By this age I know what my body will tolerate. I know my limitations of food and drink.

A dark room seems to be best.  Light tends to wakefulness.  It is similar to prayer, in that we are shutting out the world and any artificial light.  Jerry has always gone to bed earlier, and I get to bed as early as possible.  Establishing a regular schedule makes  it is easier to get up early, even if I don’t get a good night’s sleep.  Even now, I may lie back down and have a nap before the dawn of this new day, Lord willing.  Either way, my day is dependent on His strength, power and glorious might ~ His Spirit in me ~ “Christ in me, the hope of glory.” When we truly understand and experience this truth, sleep does not matter ~ only Christ.

Precious heavenly Father, Creator, Redeemer and sustainer of all living things, so make Christ real in our hearts and lives that we rejoice in Him, even in our sleeplessness. In every waking moment, make us to know your presence, use all our time to fill us with your grace. Wrap us in the glory of the one who lived for us, died for us, was raised for us, and now reigns for us, continuing to teach us. Help us to remember this life as preparation for eternity with you. Fill us with your Holy Spirit of love, joy and peace, for your glory and our joy. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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His Story is My Story (A Poem)

A few weeks ago, the pastor and elders of the church we had been visiting, came to our home to pray for us and while here, to hear our witness of Christ for membership.  God had been working twenty years for this transition from our last church. All that the Lord has done in my life (almost 79 years) could never be shared in one day, and I praise Him that He is not through with His work in my life. The following poem is the concise witness the Lord gave me for that day.

His Story is My Story

No one knows even half of my story
It is covered by heaven’s pure glory.

Jesus came down and died for my sin.
By HIs blood I am cleansed from within.

By His righteousness alone,
For my sins did He atone.

So that sinners such as I
May on His work now rely.

Singing and praising every day
In the new and upward way.

Fran ~ 2018

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Overwhelmed by Grace

Years ago, I used this title for another article; it was similar, but different in many ways. It spoke of an overwhelming grace experienced during an earlier time in my life. Jerry and I were still young with both feet on the ground.; we were enjoying what we considered success, our children and small grandchildren; the Lord was doing great things in our lives. We could easily have said, “Then was the best time of our lives.”

We had begun to learn and know God’s covenant of grace. The power of His grace was something fairly new, but it was becoming a great work in my life, a life I had never known. To “grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) was a beautiful thing. The overwhelming grace that He had bestowed grew stronger and nothing seemed to hinder even during the few difficult times.

I don’t know where my former article is stored, but I know that His grace was stored within my heart and mind, so that in these last days they have not been lost. During these last days, when the adversities have become overwhelming, God’s grace is far more, able to temper with the greatest of difficulties in this life. God is Greater Than is an older article posted here years ago. His grace was working then and now, continuing to grow and bearing fruit for His name and glory.

“These are the worst of times, and the best of times” ~ the worst of this world, but the best of heaven, and that overwhelming grace is that by which He will wing us to heights unknown and to our eternal home with Him.

An older hymn sung at our church this past Lord’s Day attests to this grace in His faithfulness to us through all times and all things.

Dear Father in heaven, as we consider all that you have done in our lives, we can but know how powerful is your grace that fills and thrills, and spills over wherever we are. We praise you for such a work, a supernatural work, that only your grace can accomplish. We pray that you will continue to grow us as your people, as a witness of your presence and power through all of this life, however difficult and tedious it may become for us. Believing that all the darkness of this world is meant to be a backdrop for your light and goodness, keep us faithful, loving, and gracious; enable us to stand in the truth of your grace revealed through the life, death and resurrection of your Son, our Lord and Savior ~ in whose name we pray, thank you and praise you. Amen.
Related Article: Why Me?
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Expect Great Things

As I was getting out of bed yesterday morning I was given the words “Expect Great Things.” This kind of leading is not unusual, but this one seemed profound, so I hit the floor running. When the Lord speaks, we don’t always receive clarification, just direction. We are reminded of Abraham’s story and his obedience to God’s calling. He did not know where he was going but trusted the Lord’s direction.

Three such words as these ~ “Expect Great Things” ~ carry a lot of weight when we consider the source. No one could have given these words except God, the Father, through the presence and power of His Holy Spirit in me.

Upon first hearing these words, the temptation was to think that God had something special in store for me. But then, the same Spirit brought correction to my first and fleshly inclination. The next thought was for me to focus on the source of the words; not the words, but on God, Himself.

Consulting the concordance for the word “great” we find that God created “two great lights” (Genesis 1:16).

His work of Creation was just the beginning of the revelation of His “greatness.”

He promised to make of Abraham a “great nation” and to make his name “great” (Genesis 12:28).

He did a “great work” upon the Egyptians (Exodus 14:31).

(Every time I go to the concordance, I find more than I intended for one article; enough for another book. So, for sake of time and space, I encourage you to search other references for yourself.)

How do we then, understand these three words? If not for me, then who are they for?

In the end, I was led to realize that God is the great One, doing great things even before the beginning of the world. He will always be doing great things beyond my knowing. Where ever He has chosen, He reveals these great things; to whomever He desires. It is just for me to believe who He is, as God, Creator and sustainer of all things, and Redeemer, accomplishing all things He has planned for His own glory and our good.

In the process of realization, His greatness, through His power of creation, came to mind, His awesome deeds of deliverance for His people, His miracles of incarnation, resurrection and ascension, His redemption for us to whom He reveals His greatness, the new birth by His Holy Spirit and new life through Jesus Christ, His Son, and the continual leading of His Holy Spirit in the lives of HIs people. His greatness is revealed through HIs Holy Word. We read and believe though we cannot always understand.

Is He doing “great things” today? Do we need to ask? Or do we trust His revelation to us as the Great One who does “great things” every day, even though we cannot know or see them. And wherever He is working, His greatness has a ripple effect throughout humanity.

Dear Father in heaven, “The Great I Am,” whose “great love” is beyond our understanding, we praise you for your greatness, for the greatness of your grace and your glory. We are not always the direct recipients of what we would consider “great things,” but knowing you, we believe you are everywhere present and powerful every moment of everyday. Let us forever live in this joy and expectation, desiring to hear where you are now working; knowing this in our own hearts and lives as you are continuing to “conform us to the image of your dear Son” ~ in whose name we pray. Amen.

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What We Will Leave Behind

As Jerry and I continue to age, getting closer to the end of this life, we seem to think more of the next life than this one. We are more in preparation than ever before. This brings me to the consideration of what we will leave behind when we exit this world. As we share this list, we ask that you not be put off by the first things, but bear through until the end, as we hope you may be blessed to see what the Lord is doing in our last days.

The first things are concerned with the physical life that we now experience. There are other things not listed, but enough is enough.

Uncertainties and perplexities

Regrets

Pain ~ Choosing a below-the-knee amputation almost twelve years ago, Jerry has had continual soreness and pain in that upper leg. Other health issues have prevented seeking remedies for this pain.

Unhealed wounds and everyday change of bandages. He has been receiving treatment for a diabetic ulcer on his foot since the first of last year.

Bloody sheets and shirts, He is on three blood-thinners that cause unusual bleeding from his arms and chest at any time during the day or night.

Bills and pills

Sin and the evil of this world

Spiritual warfare

Sorrow in losing loved ones. Grandparents, parents, brothers, twenty aunts and uncles in my own family and their spouses, two nieces, and cousins on both sides have gone before us, plus friends. The most recent event was the loss of our four-week-old great granddaughter in February.

The most important things we will leave behind are things the Lord has given in the middle of the chaos. These far outweigh the first things we have listed. These we will also take with us. These are eternal. There is much more than what we list here.

God’s Word (1 Peter 1:23)
As we wrote in our last post. God’s Word is eternal. We are birthed by it spiritually, and live by it ~ it is forever in us, written on our minds and in our hearts. We grow by it. It grows in us and bears fruit now and for eternity. His Spirit, who inspired the Word to be written and preserved it for us, leads us by it. As Jesus said, “My words are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). We speak these words now, and they bear fruit for eternity. What we have spoken and written here will remain for God to use for His own glory when we are gone. It will not return to Him void but will accomplish all for which He sent it.

God’s Presence and Power (Hebrews 13;5)
God was here before we came. He will remain to continue and finish His work in all His children.

God’s Love (Ephesians 2:4-5)
The love that penetrated and permeates our heart, soul, mind and strength is being passed down to family members, members of the Lord’s family and to others. (1 John 3:1-2)

The Joy of the Lord (John 15:11)
His joy is an eternal joy. He gives it here. It spreads and never ends.

God’s Peace (John 14:27)
His peace was brought to earth through His Son, Jesus Christ and has continued by the power of His Holy Spirit in His people. This peace will be ours here and eternally, but not ours alone; we have our portion as part of the family of God which will bring us into His presence.

God’s Blessings (Ephesians 1:3)
He showers His abundant blessings upon us during the difficult times that spill over onto any who know us.

Patience and Perseverance (James 1:2-3)
All that He gives is experienced in and through all that we endure while here on earth.

Our Testimony  (1 john 5:10)
We leave behind the witness of all the goodness that we experience in the middle of the trials and adversities. (Psalm 107:8)
The Lord, as He is preparing us in this life for eternity with Him, witnesses of His grace and power in all that we encounter.
All that we endure here will pass away. Finally, with all the dross removed, the proof that we belong to Him shines forth for His glory.

Gracious Father, we thank you for the new life you have given us in the middle of this life ~ new life that enables us to focus on our goal ~ eternity with you. We praise you for the “overwhelming greatness of redeeming love” (Andrew Murray’s Humility) that captures us and keeps our hearts and minds centered in Christ, who is our life. Continue to fill up the spirit, soul and body of each of your children with the inheritance that is ours as joint-heirs with your Son, leaving an imprint on those who know us and believe the witness that you express through us. Thank you for leaving your impression on every generation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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