Thoughts for the Week

Is it “Christian”?

What qualifies something as being “Christian”?

I’m not talking about the salvation of a person, but rather the description of something in the media. In current American culture, there are several genres that are marketed as being “Christian.” There are Christian movies, bands, TV shows, books, and the list goes on.

However, what are the qualifications? Does the main character/singer/producer need to be a Christian? Does there need to be a mention of God or Jesus in a positive way? There’s no definitive answer.

But would you believe there’s a book of the Bible that does not mention God at all? That would be the book of Esther. It’s a powerful, moving story about a woman who becomes queen and defends her people against complete destruction. But not once is God brought up in this story.

I’ve always taken this to show how something can bring glory to God even when the thing is not evidently about him.

The story of Esther shows how being brave and doing the right thing in the face of certain death is honorable and should be held up as an example for all generations. (Esther 4:14b). God had said in his word to “be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NIV).

The book of Esther shows this commandment bring applied in a real story which brings glory to the God. Also, God is ultimately the one who allowed this story which does not mention him to be part of the Biblical collection of stories.

So instead of asking if something is “Christian,” a better question to ask is if something honors God, even if it doesn’t explicitly mention him. If so, I believe it can have a lot of value, even if not “Christian.”

Copyright 2016 by Molly Farnsley. Use by permission only.

I’m Sorry!

When was the last time someone asked for forgiveness?

Recently a friend of mine asked for forgiveness because he had failed a task I had given him. He said he was sorry, but I knew he had no remorse; he just wanted me to give him a pass and then move on.

I wasn’t looking to give him a pass, I wanted to know that he was truly sorry about what he had (or in this case, hadn’t) done and that he wished things could have gone differently. I don’t carry a grudge, but I can tell you that going forward, I don’t ask him for favors and certainly don’t trust him as much as I did.

God feels this way too. When we wrong him, he wants us to be sorry on the inside, not just the outside.

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate” (Joel 2:13a, NIV).

Tearing apart one’s clothing was a public way of showing that one was in grief. God is making it clear that he does not want our remorse for the wrong that we’ve done to be only outwardly visible.

We are called to ensure that our hearts reflect the torn and grieving expression that rending one’s garments had in Biblical times. So this week, instead of just saying you’re sorry, ensure that you are truly sorry deep down.

Copyright 2016 by Molly Farnsley. Use by permission only.

You Know the Rules

Do you hold unique standards in life? Maybe you only mow the lawn on weekends, shop at a certain store once a month, only drink soda for special occasions, or never watch R-rated movies.

Personally, I find it helpful to keep my Sundays as clear of work as possible. That way, I can focus on God and have a good day of rest. Keep in mind I can’t always stick to this standard, but I try.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with placing standards on myself. It’s good to have structure. But it becomes a major problem when people turn their standards into God’s standards.

The Pharisees did this. They made new standards to worship God, and scolded Jesus when he healed a man on a Sabbath (John 5). To them, there should be no work on the day of rest. It was a standard they agreed on, but turned it into something that they thought everyone needed to follow.

It’s sad that these spiritual leaders let their power go to their heads as God clearly stated in Deuteronomy “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (4:2 NIV).

Because he knew better, Jesus didn’t let them pull him into their standards, and continued doing what he knew God wanted him to do. Don’t let people convince you of their additional guidelines and rules and focus on the ones God has given us.

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This is a story about a funny conversation I had with God over little cheesy crackers.

Growing up, my favorite snack was cheddar Munch’ems. They ran through the 1990’s until approximately the early 2000’s when they were discontinued by the manufacturer.

I remember snagging a box of these delicious little crackers, toting them outside, and watching the fluffy summer clouds drift by as I chowed down. I have many good memories about this simple snack.

Fast forward about fifteen years and I was thinking about how Jesus said he’s got to prepare a place for us in heaven because his Father has many mansions (John 14:2).

Well, a mansion needs a kitchen, right? And if there’s a kitchen, there’s got to be a pantry. I smiled and shot up a little prayer. “Hey God, I know you’re a loving Father, so I have a request. Can you stockpile some cheddar Munch’ems in the pantry of my mansion, please?”

Then he responded to me. Now, whenever God speaks to me, I have not heard an audible voice, but I usually get impressions on my heart that I know are not my own thoughts. So he said something along the lines of:

“Oh honey, you know I love you so much, but when it comes to what I’ve prepared for you, you’ve got to dream bigger than Munch’ems!”

I then prayed back “What! Bigger than Munch’ems? I didn’t think that was possible!” And laughed.

It may have been a funny little prayer request, but on tough days, sometimes God talks to me and sends me little reminders that go something along the lines of “Don’t get discouraged – remember I’m waiting here with Munch’ems for you.”

Which sounds so comforting and brings me back to a beautiful childhood, just watching the clouds go by.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9b, NLT).

The Necessity of Stress

Scientists recently created special kind of greenhouse called The Biosphere 2 where they could conduct studies on trees and other various plant life. It was here they discovered something curious.

The trees in the Biosphere 2 grew very rapidly as they had no wind to blow them over or to weaken their structures. However, many of them collapsed before they reached maturation. After some study, the scientists were able to determine that it was the LACK of wind that caused the early death of the trees.

Wind forces growing trees to position themselves for the best sunlight and to grow more strongly. It is clear that these trees required certain amounts of stress in order to grow into strong maturity.(Link)

People react similarly. The author of James grasped this concept and taught it to the readers, saying “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3, NIV).

Without any kind of difficulty in one’s life, it is very natural to lack maturity, or at least, the internal structure to grow into a mature person. But be glad when you encounter stress at times, because if you’re relying on God, your root system and internal growth will become strong, just like the trees.

Copyright 2016 by Molly Farnsley. Use with permission only.

Who takes care of you?

During different stages in everyone’s life, there are various caretakers. During childhood, the caretakers are the child’s parents. During the teenage years, it’s a combination of parents, and teachers who look after the individual.

People during young adulthood find their caretakers in their significant others. Later adulthood allows for their jobs and businesses to be their main source of income, and in essence, is a caretaker. The elderly years will require very specific care either from the person’s children, or a retirement home.

All this to say, everyone needs someone or something to care for them all throughout their lifetime. Even when one feels invincible, or on top of the world, he or she is always going to need someone to talk to, someone to ensure they are doing well, and someone to love them.

It is comforting to know that God is a loving caretaker and is always there during every stage in life.

“I have upheld [you] since you were conceived, and have carried you since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:3b-4, NIV).

There’s no need to worry about who is going to take care of you, no matter what stage of life you are in right now.

Copyright 2016 by Molly Farnsley. Use by permission only.

If you’re a writer, do you ever get attached to your characters? I do. Over time, whether you mean to or not, you begin to care about your characters as if they were real people.

I was writing a story this week for a project, where the main character struggles to overcome a bleak and difficult situation. Seeing her frustration and discouragement, I felt compelled to support and comfort her.

I wanted to say “Honey, don’t feel sad. I have an amazing life planned for you! You’re going to live in a happy home, find a loving husband, and have beautiful children. Yes, there will be some ups and downs, but don’t give up, it’s going to be incredible!”

Wanting to reach out to my character, I was suddenly struck with a though: Is this how it is between God and us sometimes? He’s the author of our lives, he brings in the supporting characters, the love interests, the antagonists, the plot twists, etc.

But unlike my character who knows nothing about her future, God has told us already that we win in the end:

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will           be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every           tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning,                 nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away                                         (Rev 20:3b-4, NIV)

Don’t get discouraged in this small chapter in your life, remember that the author of your life is the all-powerful, loving God, and he’s already shown that our ending is a happy one.

Copyright 2016 by Molly Farnsley. Use by permission only.


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