Friday, September 23, 2016

Answers: Faith

A few people asked questions about faith in response to my Your Turn post.  Victor Hugo once said, "The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves." 
And that's true.  God loved us so much even in our miserable human condition that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  I've found the greatest happiness in the world in the conviction that Jesus loves me.  I never deserved His love.  I never was good enough to earn it.  But he loved me in spite of myself.  He's changing me, so I can behold the beauty of Himself.  

Happy One asks, If you were to die tomorrow, do you know for sure you would go to heaven?
If yes, how do you know?
Yes!  I know because, in a sense, I am already in heaven.  
God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 
As the song says, "underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love--leading onward, leading homeward, to that glorious rest above."
Ashley @ Like No Other asks, Would you mind sharing your testimony? 
I was born into a devoutly Christian family.  My father had been a street-preacher in all 48 continental states.  He had asked God that the first lady who would go street preaching with him would be the one to marry.  While that didn't quite work out because the first one was in her 70s, my mom was the first single young woman who would go out with him to preach on the streets.  

They married and had yours truly!  I was raised on Bible-story books.  I watched my parents street-preach.  And, I watched my own father arrested and led away by police for preaching on the sidewalks...right here in these United States.  Thanks to the ACLJ, God's grace, and our Bill of Rights, their case against him didn't stand a chance in court.

Before long, I was standing near our curb preaching to the folks going to the bar across the street and on the corner: "Don't go to the tavern.  There's better places to go, like Dairy Queen or 'tucky Fried Chicken!" 

I knew the gospel of ice cream.

When I turned five, my papa started homeschooling me.  He taught me how to read from the Gospel of John.  I finished the New Testament before my sixth birthday, and the Old Testament before my seventh.  After that we read through the Bible once a year.  
But my parents couldn't save my soul: only Jesus could.  By the time I was 11 my academic reading had expanded, and I asked myself how I knew that my parents were right about God.  The scientists in the books I was reading said the world started with a big bang, and we evolved from the apes. 

Interested in codes and ciphers at the time, I picked up a book called The Bible Code, which basically scared me into thinking the Bible must be true.  I also remembered feeling the presence of God before at a church meeting.  

So, I picked up my Bible and read it on my own, and prayed on my own.  I felt the presence and peace of God in a wonderful way, and was filled with so much joy I felt like laughing and dancing.

Meeting Jesus and feeling his presence changed my personality.  I had lapsed into a stage where my mother had to command me to smile when we went to the grocery store, so people wouldn't think I was miserable.  After I got saved, I wanted to see how many people I could make smile when we went shopping!

By the next summer I had decided I never wanted to be bad again.  I wanted to commit to living for Jesus for the rest of my life...and so I was baptized when I was 12 as a sign of my lifelong commitment to Jesus, who gave His life for me.
At Clear Lake.  Photo courtesy of Yai (Siripon Schunk).
Stewart asks, Would you rather spend the afternoon with dull believers, or interesting atheists?
To answer this question, it seems I would have to acquiesce the premise that some people are inherently dull or boring, which is something I disbelieve.  

Everyone is interesting to the mind keen enough to discern.  Sometimes it takes a lot of talent to drag the "interestingness" out of people...but everyone has a story, a talent, or a hobby.  One just has to care enough to be willing to find the things that make people interesting. 

Set me at a table to talk with just about anyone perceived as dull, and I will find a way to make him or her one of the most interesting people you've ever met.

But before you think I've listened to too many politicians, and therefore am becoming skilled at evading questions...I do understand the idea of your very interesting question. 
Being around a bunch of religious people sometimes makes me nervous. Religious people were the ones who crucified Jesus; the despised tax collectors and sinners didn't give him any trouble.

Given the choice of going to a chess tournament or a church social, I'd pick chess every day.  I think churches have a lot of hypocrites.  In chess, if your game is hypocritical, you lose.

That said, most of my friends are Christians.  Real Christians are wonderful people.  They're the people I generally feel most comfortable talking with.

But running into an atheist once in a while can be thought-provoking and fun, especially since I don't believe a lot of the things they stereotype me to believe.  It can be very interesting having an atheist explain to me why I need to go to church to be a Christian, or why I should celebrate Christmas.

Ashley @ Precious Moments asks: Has God been teaching you anything new lately? 
Yes, the confidence of humility.  The pride of life is an insidious insecurity that can be hard to overcome.

I have a lot of things in my favor.  I am a very gifted person academically, so smart I basically have/had a free pass to do anything I wanted.  I'm physically fit.  I'm talented.  When I graduated high school, I thought I was too smart to do menial labor.  I was embarrassed to have anyone see me doing it. 

However, over the past four years, I've chosen to mix concrete, vacuum other people's floors, clean out their gardens, paint, pick fruit, you name it!  Some of it, I love doing, but...
There are few things as humbling as being on one's hands and knees cleaning a baseboard in a public bathroom after-hours. It's not something done in a suit and tie.  It's not something family and friends are going to praise. Confidence can't be in what you're wearing.   Confidence can't be in what other people are thinking.

Confidence has to come from within and from above.  I am not ashamed.  of anything.

I don't plan on cleaning public bathrooms as a regular job.  But I can do it if it needs done.  I know I am the same person whether I'm wearing a beautiful dress...or raggedy denim patched with duct tape.  I am the same person if I'm being told how talented I am after a concert, if I'm talking with a future President, or if I'm shoveling gravel.

Menial labor is not demeaning.  Hard work is respectable and praise-worthy.

An upright server at a fast food restaurant is more respected in the eyes of God than a wicked, scheming, deceitful politician people rush to get autographs from.

What I am wearing and doing at a particular time does not define me.  I can do all things through Christ.  

You can do all things through Christ.  You are not defined by your circumstances.

24 comments:

  1. I love your response where you say that everyone is interesting, Bethany! This is so true! And I was baptized at 25! I enjoyed reading your responses and post here, thank you so much for sharing. And you look beautiful in your photo, you are very photogenic.

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  2. Thanks for sharing more about who you are, Bethany. Over the years I have found that I shy away from labels, especially when trying to describe my relationship with God. I am growing in knowing Him as One who is Father, Son Jesus, and Holy Spirit. I often feel I do a better job talking to Him than listening to Him. I am grateful for, and challenged by the Bible as I read it on a regular basis, and Holy Spirit leads me toward understanding and truth and comfort...and I especially need to grow in boldness in sharing the Good News. You are an encouragement to me and I enjoy our blogging friendship. May the Lord continue to bless you and yours. xx

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    1. Sounds like you're on a good path. Blessings to you as well, Gracie!

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  3. I know I tell you this often but I gotta say it again. You are a great writer. I truly enjoy your stories and watching you grow and grow and grow.

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  4. Thank you for sharing all this with us, Bethany! I always enjoy learning about you.

    I grew up in a working class poor family and just about every adult I knew held a job that many people would be ashamed to admit to. They didn’t feel that way and they were all very hardworking, proud people. My parents taught me that “there is no shame in honest work” and I have passed this philosophy to my own children. Tough jobs teach, amongst many other things, a good work ethic and a strong character.

    I’m glad that your faith provides you with so much comfort and direction. We all need something in this life to lift our spirit. I also grew up in a devoutly Christian home, and although I didn’t follow the same path as you, I did inherit some wonderful things from my upbringing, mostly because of my parents. And I don’t filter relationships in my life based on what someone believes in or doesn’t believe in. It don’t matter to me whether an individual is religious, an atheist or somewhere in-between. What does matter is how they treat others. If they’re kind and honest and compassionate, they are welcome in my circle!

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    1. *doesn't* not don't!
      I'm so picky about my spelling! I had some tough English teachers :)

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    2. Heh...I am always proof-reading my own writing as well, and if I make an error it may haunt me until I come back an hour later to correct it. ;)

      It sounds like you come from a great family, and I always appreciate your kind attitude toward others, Martha. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. Such interesting facts about you, sweet friend. Thank you for sharing!

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  6. A wonderful post.
    I'll see you in heaven. : )

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  7. My dear Bethany, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this post. It was simply wonderful, my friend. And I loved reading about your testimony. Oh, the precious grace of God and the joy salvation brings! Hugs to you!

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    1. It's good to have heaven as one's final destination.

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  8. Hi Bethany, Once again you have confirmed, to me at least, that you are an exceptional blogger. Your life story is most interesting. I am decades older than you and I see a level of maturity that is unusual for someone your age. As a teacher, one thing I know for sure is the importance of parental guidance for a child’s development. Clearly, your father and mother have prepared you well for a life of spiritual development. Thank you for sharing your testimony.

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    1. I am very thankful for all the work my parents put into raising me. Thanks for your kind words.

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  9. Dear Bethany,
    I have enjoyed reading all your answers to the questions in your last few posts. What a wonderful testimony of the grace of God. Thank you for sharing. :)
    That's a lovely picture of you, by the way.
    Love in Christ,
    Ashley

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  10. Once again, it is interesting to get new insights into your life and walk with the Lord! I had no idea that your father was a street-preacher. :) I like what you said about being the same person no matter what you are doing - the Lord is more concerned about whether or not we are trying to live a holy life than our exact occupation.

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  11. Ah, Bethany!
    What a beautiful testimony!!
    Thank you SO much for sharing...may God richly bless you and your family for your strong commitment to Him. In the world, I am sure the Lord is using you to light up the way wherever you go.

    Be blessed, dear one. <3

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    1. Blessings to you as well, Ashley! Thanks.

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