Ambassador of Reconciliation

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Posted 7/31/17 at 2:31 PM | Diane Castro

The Heart of the Law

According to rabbinical Judaism, there are 613 mitzvoh, or commandments, in the Torah, the five books of Moses. The commandments are divided into two categories: 365 negative and 248 positive. With so many dos and don’ts, it’s virtually impossible to know them all, and completely impossible to obey them all.

Thankfully, the New Testament gives us the key that enables us to understand God’s law in a manageable way and to obey it in a realistic way. When asked “which is the great commandment in the Law,” Jesus replied,

 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40).

Our first responsibility, then, is to love God. If you’re not sure exactly what that looks like, then consider that our love for God is expressed and demonstrated by loving others. And that, my friends, is spelled out very clearly throughout the New Testament. FULL POST

Posted 4/22/17 at 3:56 AM | Diane Castro

"Come What May, I Will Run"

“Come what may, I will run.”

I picture every runner of the Boston Marathon echoing these words of Ahimaaz, who was determined to run to King David to deliver the news of victory in battle (2 Sam. 18:23). Each one has his or her own reasons and faces unique challenges and hardships, but all are absolutely determined to run the race, despite the obstacles.

In 1966, Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb applied to run the Marathon but was denied entry. “Women aren’t allowed, and furthermore are not physiologically able,” wrote the race director. At that time, AAU rules did not allow women to run more than a mile and a half competitively, but Gibb had been training for Boston every day for two years, sometimes running as much as 40 miles in a day. Fired up, she took a four-day trip on a Greyhound bus from her home in San Diego, arriving in Boston the day before the race. On race day, she slipped into the pack with the men and ran the entire route, becoming the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon. FULL POST

Posted 4/10/17 at 2:10 PM | Diane Castro

Reflections of a Tomboy Grandma

What is the most fundamental fact of human existence?

The 60 essays in this book cover a wide variety of topics—including joy, faith, unity, love, wisdom, suffering, death, grief, peace, and gratitude—but the overarching theme is that every human being is created by God in His image and has great worth. The implications of this truth in every facet of life are absolutely staggering. These essays begin to explore what this fact means in terms of how we view ourselves, how we perceive God, and how we treat others. Some of the pieces tell the unique stories of different individuals. Some talk about the character of this God who created us in His image—what He is like and what He is doing in the world. Others deal with how we should interact with other people, given that every person we meet has a profound God-given value. FULL POST

Posted 1/21/17 at 9:01 PM | Diane Castro

Stop Whining!

The title of a Christianity Today article from the year 2000 stuck in my mind and became a mantra of mine: “Get Thou Over It!” As author Jody Vickery wrote,

We believers are the most offended, wounded, upset, shocked, thunderstruck, consternated, and (the enduring favorite) outraged group of people on the planet. Is there something in the baptismal waters that makes Christians thin-skinned? Once I even read a letter from a correspondent that began, “My wife … was disturbed.” Well, pardon me. Didn’t mean to disturb the Mrs.

The problem has only gotten worse since the turn of the millennium. Like our society in general, evangelicals are taking offense at the slightest provocation, and the proliferation of Internet comment wars has produced hordes of appalled and insulted and dismayed Christians.

Did someone challenge a cherished belief of yours? Is it worth getting so worked up about it that your relationship with him is damaged? Did someone say something to you that feels hurtful? Chances are the person didn’t mean to hurt you. And even if she did, is it worth getting your panties all in a wad and letting it ruin your day? Do online commenters mock your faith? It is to be expected. But does your indignation reflect the message of the gospel? FULL POST

Posted 1/15/17 at 6:55 PM | Diane Castro

Grow in Grace

When I was growing up, I was not a particularly nice person. My sister Karen was the nice one—the do-gooder, the Candy Striper, the kind and thoughtful one. I didn’t have much patience with weak or needy people; I thought they needed to just suck it up and get a grip. When my mom would take us to visit someone at a nursing home, Karen was very sweet to the old folks, while I was thinking, “Get me outta here.”

Well, God has a sense of humor. He let me become weak and needy myself, and gradually, over decades, He has given me a heart for all people. He has brought across my path many hurting people, and now, instead of thinking “Get me outta here,” I can enter into their lives and offer them some of the comfort I have received from “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (1 Cor. 1:3).

The first time I recall someone really opening up to me was when I greeted a young mom after church one Sunday morning. I didn’t know her well, and I just said the customary “Hi, how’re you doing?” She burst into tears and a whole tale tumbled out—a story of abuse by her husband and stress with her small children and struggles with money. I think the reason she felt safe with me was because it was no big secret that I had troubles of my own. I had let down my façade of pretending that I had it all together, and therefore she could be open and vulnerable with me. FULL POST

Posted 10/15/16 at 2:03 PM | Diane Castro

Nefarious

https://gtipphotos.state.gov/

When I read the book Unbroken, which documented the treatment of Allied POWs in Japanese prison camps during World War II, I thought it revealed the very depths of human depravity. But it may be that there are some who sink deeper still.

While visiting my daughter Joanna, we went to her church for a viewing of the documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, which exposes the dark world of human trafficking. The odious practice of buying and selling human beings has been going on since ancient times and is burgeoning today, not just in Asia and Africa, but in developed countries, quite possibly in your own community. Inflicting unspeakable torment on prisoners of war is despicable enough, but kidnapping and violating children is incomprehensibly wretched. As described in the synopsis for Nefarious,

Victims are systematically stripped of their identity, battered into gruesome submission, and made to perform humiliating sexual acts on up to 40 strangers every night. Most are held in dingy apartments and brothels, forced to take heavy doses of illegal drugs, and monitored very closely. Victims are often thrown into such ghastly oppression at 13 years old. Some are abducted outright, while others are lured out of poverty, romantically seduced, or sold by their families. FULL POST

Posted 9/28/16 at 11:40 PM | Diane Castro

Do We Worship the Same God?

Recently I attended a Sunday school class in which we explored the question “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” Many Bible-believing Christians would be quick to answer “no.” But a quick answer to this question reflects a failure to grapple with the many nuances and ramifications of the problem. It is a critical theological question that deserves thoughtful consideration. And it is not simply a theoretical question on the level of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin; it has practical implications for how we live. How does the answer affect the way we view and treat Muslims, the way we interact with them, the way we witness to them?

I will not attempt to answer this question but rather will raise some more that are prompted by this one, in hopes of stimulating thoughtful dialog on this important topic. For example,

How similar do your views of the character of God have to be in order to say that you worship the same God? FULL POST

Posted 9/28/16 at 11:29 PM | Diane Castro

Ambassador of Reconciliation: The Fifth Year

As of this week my blog, “Ambassador of Reconciliation,” is five years old. It has been a record of my spiritual journey as I have tried to capture what I have been learning.

A major theme of my fifth year is that all human beings are created by God in His image. This fundamental fact has monumental implications, which I have explored in several posts: “The Inestimable Worth of Every Person” (116) was prompted by a sermon given by our pastor. It looks at the ramifications of our being created in God’s image with respect to how we view and treat people and how we think God views and treats people. A follow-up to this post is “You created my inmost being” (118), in which I tell about some people whose life stories touched me in some way. “Who Am I and Who Will I Be?” (124) contains reflections on the intrinsic humanity of every person, even those with severe impairments, and on who we will be after death. “Can You See Beyond” (127) is a challenge to view others not as enemies but as lost sheep; not as insignificant beings but as sons and daughters of the King, future fellow believers, and brothers and sisters in Christ. “Tomboy Grandmas Have More Fun” (129) is my story of growing up wanting to be a boy but being grateful that my gender identity as a girl was never called into question. It is an encouragement to every human to be the unique and wonderful individual God created him or her to be. FULL POST

Posted 6/29/16 at 11:27 PM | Diane Castro

Whose Side Are You on Anyway?

theintrepidhound.com

With six strong-willed, opinionated children in our family, there was never a lack of conflict in our household when the kids were growing up. I once calculated that with six individuals, there are 57 different combinations of two or more, each with its own unique dynamics. Throw in two stubborn parents, all in a small house with one little bathroom, and you have plenty of potential for clashing of the wills.

Sometimes we let the kids battle it out on their own, and sometimes we acted as referees. Since I hate conflict, my tendency was to intervene and attempt to reason with the combatants. I would try to help them see each other’s viewpoint and come to a mutual understanding. I wanted them to learn to listen, compromise, and get along.

conversation.which.co.uk

But it often didn’t work that way. If I tried to be a mediator between two warring parties, often I would end up with both of them mad at me. Each one wanted me to be 100% on their side, to see the justice of their cause and the unreasonableness of the other. Each one wanted me to support him or her completely and to punish the other. Their inability or unwillingness to see through the other person’s eyes and to come to a mutual understanding was a reflection of the fact that they were children—immature, self-centered children. FULL POST

Posted 6/1/16 at 7:31 PM | Diane Castro

Tomboy Grandmas Have More Fun

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to me if I had been born in the twenty-first century to gender-identity-conscious parents. From as early as I can remember, I wanted to be a boy. Girl stuff was boring. Boys had more fun. I wanted to dress like a boy, wear my hair like a boy, and play boy games. My cousin Carolyn and I (who as toddlers were caught walking on the railing around my aunt and uncle’s second-story balcony) gave each other boys’ names; she was Charlie and I was Duane. I wasn’t into anything domestic; I preferred to climb trees and jump out of them, pretending I could fly. I didn’t want a frilly bed; a sleeping bag on the ground was fine with me. When all the girls in my kindergarten class were taking stupid ballet lessons, I just wanted to be outside sledding with the boys. I didn’t have tea parties or play house with dolls; I pretended to ride a horse on the basement railing, and I played war with sticks for guns. My favorite sport was football, and I played tackle football with the neighborhood boys. For my ninth birthday, my Nana (prim and proper as she was) gave me a football outfit, complete with helmet, jersey, shoulder pads, and padded pants. One year for Christmas all I wanted was boys’ black buckle boots. Under the tree was a box that was a promising size and shape; I remember my annoyance when it turned out to be a dumb old piano lamp. FULL POST

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