How Much Have You Grown In A Year?

As we approach the Passover season, it’s traditionally a time of reflection and self-examination. It’s good to have moments like that where we consider what God has to say about our lives, the areas where we need to repent, and different ways we can continue to grow and change.

At my Messianic congregation, they’ve shared that certain rabbis teach that if you are still in the same place you were a year ago you have backslid. We can’t maintain a sort of “status quo” in our walk of faith. Either we’re moving toward God or we’re moving away. There’s no place for complacency in a Christian life.

God expects growth. That doesn’t mean we need to be constantly on-edge and second guessing if we’re “good enough,” though. He doesn’t expect us to already be perfect, but He does expect us to keep going that direction. Such growth involves becoming more like God in every aspect of our lives. The more we grow, the more His character, desires, priorities, etc. are reflected in our own lives.

How Much Have You Grown In A Year? | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: Pearl via Lightstock

In Touch With The Great  Commandments

What are the most important things to focus on as we try to grow as Christians and learn more about God? You’ll hear various answers. Some say preach the gospel, citing the great commission as our primary goal. Others devote themselves to good works. Some study prophecy. I like to point to the passage where Jesus identified the greatest commandments.

Jesus answered, “The greatest is, ‘Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. The second is like this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31, WEB)

We can all tell how important these commands are from the way Jesus describes them. But I think we too often see them just as a starting place when they should be a continuing focus. We should never stop learning how to love God and our neighbors.

In Jesus’ letter to the Ephesian church, He said, “I have this against you, that you left your first love” (Rev. 2:4, WEB). We’re not told exactly what that first love is, but since the first commandment is to love the Lord your God I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say the Ephesians’ problem was related to losing touch with the greatest commandments. Read more

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How Do I Repent and Change?

Repentance from dead works is the first of the foundational truths listed in Hebrews 6. But how well do we really understand it and how many of us truly practice repentance?

When I was baptized, the minister asked if I’d repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I meant it when I said yes, but I’m not sure I really understood how much more repentance is than just an, “I’m sorry I messed up.” It involves a change in our innermost being that manifests in a commitment to turn away from things displeasing to God.

As we prepare for Passover, we ask God for feedback on how we’re doing in our walk with Him. We examine ourselves to see if there are hidden sins in our lives and ponder how we can become better examples of our Lord Jesus. But we can’t stop there. We have to act on what we learn.

click to read article, "How Do I Repent and Change?" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: “Remember this day” by Tim Sackton, CC BY-SA via Flickr

David’s Example

Psalm 51 is perhaps the best example we have in the entire Bible of repentance. David wrote it after committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband Uriah killed. There were consequences for those sins, but David was forgiven. He didn’t just “get away with it” because he was king and God wanted to keep working with him. David was forgiven because he confessed and repented from a humbled heart (unlike the previous king, Saul, who made excuses when confronted with his sin). Read more

Are There Sins Separating Me From God?

There’s a fairly prevalent idea out there in Christianity that our sins separate us from God because God can’t be in the presence of sin. But is it true that God pulls back from us because we’re too dirty for Him, or is there something else going on?

The idea that God can’t be around sin is largely based on a verse in Habakkuk that reads, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab. 1:13, KJV). When we look at the context, though, we see God just told Habakkuk He planned to work with the vicious Chaldeans, and this verse is part of Habakkuk asking God why He would ever associate with such wickedness.

If we accept the premise that Jesus was and is fully God (as I believe we should), then we know God doesn’t shrink back from sin as if scared to get His hands dirty. Rather, He dives right in among sinners so that He can wipe sin away and replace it with holiness. God gets close to sinful people so He can set things right.

But there are also verse that talk about iniquity separating us from God and revealing that God will not fellowship with evil. While we don’t have to worry that we’re so filthy God wouldn’t touch us, if we want a close relationship with Him we need to figure out what’s going on here. Read more

Am I Ready To Hear What God Says?

As the Passover approaches, those of us who believe Jesus intended modern-day Christians to observe it are given a task. Before following Jesus’ instruction to take the Passover symbols “in remembrance of Me,” we’re told to examine ourselves.

For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks the Lord’s cup in a way unworthy of the Lord will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup. (1 Cor. 11:26-19, WEB)

Every year I hear these scriptures read, and every year since my baptism in 2008 I ask myself, “How?” What can I do to examine myself and determine if I’m keeping the Passover in a worthy manner?”

click to read article, "Am I Ready To Hear What God Says?" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: “Remember this day” by Tim Sackton, CC BY-SA via Flickr

The Lord Examines

Perhaps the reason why I’ve always felt like I was hitting a wall when trying to examine myself is found in a very familiar scripture:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Yahweh, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. (Jer. 17:9-10, WEB)

There’s no way we can successfully examine ourselves without God’s help. Maybe that should have been obvious, but I only connected it with Passover after hearing Len Martin’s sermon on self-examination (which you can listen so by clicking here; I highly recommend it). We need to ask God to examine us, or our self-examination isn’t going to bear much fruit. Read more

Why Do We Keep The Passover?

Happy New Year! Today is the first day of the Hebrew month Nisan (also called Abib), and the first day of the sacred year on the Hebrew calendar (Rosh Hashana starts the civil year). This means Passover is exactly 14 days away. As we draw nearer this important holy day, I wanted to shift our focus onto why Passover is so important for Christians today.

As I started thinking about reasons to keep Passover, I realized I’d either have to make this a series of posts or be much more concise than the subject deserves. Instead of a series (though there will be other Passover posts coming up), I decided to just write a brief overview of some reason to keep Passover and then invite you to join me in exploring them further. If this post inspires any of you to study Passover, I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments. And if you write a blog post about Passover, please share a link here so we can all read it.

Why Do We Keep The Passover? | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: “Remember this day…” by Tim Sackton, CC BY-SA

It’s A Command

Exodus chapter 12 describes the events of the first Passover in Egypt, when the children of Israel were protected from the plague that killed all Egyptian firstborn. After delivering instructions specific to that Passover, the Lord reveals that Passover celebration will continue forever among His people. Read more

Turning Offense Into Something Useful

It seems like everyone is offended about something today. Wherever someone voices a decided opinion, there’s someone else reacting to it defensively. In an effort not to offend anyone, we’re turning into a society where we talk around issues rather than addressing them directly. We couch our opinions in careful language like, “From my own personal view …” and “I don’t want to force an opinion on you, it’s just my thoughts that …”.

Why are we so quick to see offense as a bad thing in today’s culture? If it’s just because we don’t like to be made uncomfortable, then we’re missing valuable opportunities for personal growth. Being offended offers a challenge to how we think. For people who are open to questioning, growth, and refinement, being challenged is a good thing. For people who just want to float through life without wondering “why?”, offense is scary.

Turning Offense Into Something Useful | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit for portrait: “Angy Face” by Ryan Hyde, CC BY-SA

The next time you feel offended, don’t look at it as a bad thing. See it as an opportunity for self-examination. It’s a chance to look inside yourself and find out why you’re having such a strong, defensive emotional reaction to what you just saw or heard. Ask yourself things like,

  • Is this important enough to be offended about?
    • If no, why am I so defensive?
    • If yes, how do I turn my offense into something more productive?
  • Am I offended by this because it makes me feel guilty about something I’m doing wrong? (plank in your own eye, speck in your brother’s …)
  • Does anyone else care that I care about this?
  • Would sharing my thoughts on this just stir up unproductive strife? (If yes, don’t do it!)
  • Is the thing I feel offended about something that’s hurting other people?
    • If yes, what can I do to stop it? (For example, being offended that human trafficking exists doesn’t help; you’d need to fight against it or support those who do.)
  • Is the idea/statement that offends me actually true, regardless of how I feel?

Offense is unproductive by itself, but when we feel offended we have a chance to transcend knee-jerk reactions and use it as a tool for self-examination, growth and motivation. We can look inside ourselves and see if our offended reaction points to something we need to change, and we can look outside ourselves for opportunities to actively make the world a better place.