Friday, August 21, 2015

Why Should I Thank God?

Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
~Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

Through [Jesus] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
~ John, John 1:3
I have heard many people ask why they should give thanks to God for anything, especially if they have paid for what they have. Ok, I could go into the old, “We wouldn’t have anything if God didn’t create it first,” speech, but I’ll spare you. Instead, I want to ask you a question: what is your favorite fruit? What is your favorite color? What is your favorite thing to wear? What is your favorite song?
Ok... so I asked a few questions. Out of each of these, how many more are there from which to choose? Yes, God created everything, but, He created a LOT of everything! God spoils us with an extravagance which can only be likened to the wealthiest of wealthy people toward their children. We aren’t just given a fruit, or a hand full of fruits; we are given so many fruits that we are still discovering them six thousand years later! And fruit is just the beginning... we also have vegetables, nuts, and a plethora of tasty little meat creatures to choose from when we get hungry!
We aren’t only given one color. Bill Gates could only give us 10 colors back in the early days of personal computers, but God gave us billions of colors from the beginning! Using these colors, and the vast creativity He gave us, we have created almost endless pieces of art in every style imaginable! We have also been given so many materials with which to craft fabric and even more ways by which to craft it! So many textures, so many patterns, and again, so many colors!
And yes, music! God created the ability for sound to travel through the air. God created the human ear to find pleasure in the rhythmic compilation of various tones and beats. God also allowed for us to know how to manipulate the air in so many different way and the creativity to turn the various noises into something meaningful and beautiful.
How can we talk about the extravagant love of God without talking about how wonderful walking barefoot in green grass is, or how beautiful a sunset is, or even how relaxing hot water can be after a hard day. So when you think of how you earned the money that paid for the food and shelter and clothing that you have, think about how God’s extravagance allows you to work to earn that money (another extravagance of God), so you can pay for your food, clothing, shelter, and entertainment.
Everything around you that brings you relief, hope and joy, everything that allows you to be uplifted, is God showing you how much He loves you. And isn’t it nice to hear “thank you” from those you show your love to? Don’t you love it even more when they elaborate on what it was that they loved? So does God.
Friday, July 31, 2015

What Is It To Be "Saved?"

To know that, we need to understand what we are being saved from. John 3:18 explains that we are all, by default, condemned to eternal separation from God, AKA, death. That separation from God means that we all fall short of God's glory. This is because those we all descended from, doubted God's good intentions for them, and chose to find Life apart from God. In doing so, they separated themselves from God (That is what is known as sin).
Paul explains, in Romans 6:23, that the wages (or result) of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. That last part goes along with what John 3:16-17 expands on. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
Did you see it? God sent Jesus to save us. From what? From our own self-centered choices which cause an eternal separation from God, which is eternal death, or as John put it, to perish. But by what method did He come to save us? Paul tells us, in 2nd Corinthians 5:21, that God made Him who had no sin (Jesus) to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus isn't here to condemn us; we are all already condemned. Jesus just happens to be the one who is pointing out our present situation, but He is also offering us all a solution to that unfortunate situation.
The true beauty of it is that being “saved” is not the only thing that Jesus is offering to you and me! Did you catch that last part? God wants us to become His righteousness! Have you heard that before, or just let that sink in? Jesus Himself says in John 10:10 that He has come so that you and I might have Life, and have it to the full!
He also said of Himself that He quotes from an ancient passage, Isaiah 61:1, to describe His mission: Jesus has been anointed by God to proclaim the gospel to the poor. He has been sent to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. That’s some pretty heavy stuff! Stuff that seems to get lost with the simple word “saved.”
If you feel blinded, as though you can’t see your way through life clearly, or feel brokenhearted or even captive to some form of darkness, and you know somewhere inside of you that you need something that is bigger than you to help you, heal you, God wants that healing for you. If you don't know God through Jesus, you don't know God. But as long as you have breath, you can know God eternally through Jesus, by confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart that Jesus is Lord, and Lord of your life; and then you too can be saved, and begin on the road to true healing.
Friday, July 17, 2015

Illusions of Perfection

Take a look at the picture above... I'll bet you can pick mine out of that line up in under a second flat. It's the one that looks like it's seen it's fair share of battle damage. Yeah... "nice car, nice car, nice car, Nate's car" ...er...well, van. It's been in two collisions in the last six months. the first, as far as we can figure, was a pickup truck with a plow that hit our van in the middle of a cold winters night. That was a pleasant surprise to find while scraping snow and ice off the windows and lights as the kids are piling into the van for church (note sarcasm). The second happened while my dad was driving the kids back home from their place... on our ten year anniversary. As the car seats are a pain to take out and to put in, we  both just decided he could take our van, with the kids, and we would take his car out for our date. He was stopped at a red light and some lady was texting while driving [seriously, don't text and drive!] and didn't see our van there until the very last second... Oh well...
Why all this about my van? Well, it hit me just the other day that I have never been one to hide my problems, much like my van's dings and dents aren't hidden. I don't necessarily advertise the fullness and depth of my problems, but I won't avoid talking about them with those who really want to know more. This, I have found, makes many American Christians uneasy. I have found that many "Evangelicals" like things nice, neat and tidy. It's like the unspoken rule of the American Church: "You should always have a smile on, even if you are dying inside." Is that what Jesus wanted? Is that what the Bible actually teaches? Heck no! In Galatians 6:2, Paul writes "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (NIV).
When we take a brutally honest look at the American Church, there are a whole lot of superficial "happy" relationships, but when things get real, and they always get real, who is willing to be there, to listen, to cry with, to mourn with, and to uplift? Many are even chastised for not being perpetually happy: some say you have brought this on yourself; some say that you are just trying to get attention for yourself; others might say that you are mired in sin... so shamed and humiliated, not-happy people end up plastering a fake smile on, while telling everyone who asks them "How's it going," that "everything's great!" ...all while they are actually withdrawing and pulling away from people and relationships.
After our fire, a year ago, tomorrow, many, many people gave of their possessions and money and time to help us back up. We received more than we could have hoped for to replace all the physical things we had lost. The response was overwhelming, however, when Kelly and I needed somebody to talk to, someone to mourn with us, there were very few who were willing. A couple good people helped Kelly, but while a couple guys offered to talk with me, the offers rang hollow when I needed them. It hurt... deep. And even though so many had helped us replace our stuff, I felt like nobody cared about the emotional aspect of what happened. And then I felt bad that I felt bad. I tried putting out feelers with certain friends, but everyone kept saying "well at least all you lost was stuff." Then it happened; I was rebuked for "seeking attention," which the pastor warns to lookout for from his pulpit several times throughout each year. And then people at church just began to avoid me altogether. This has been ongoing for a year now, and still hasn't been resolved. I have spent a lot of time talking with God, and I know He's experienced what I'm going through and that He understands, and that has helped; it would just be nice to talk with someone with a corporeal form as well.
However, like in the new Pixar Disney movie, Inside Out, my experience and the experiences of so many others at churches across America, any emotion other than "Joy" is frowned upon, but especially "Sad." "Sad" must not touch anything, or even go outside of this tiny little circle, and if "Sad" does, then it's to be rebuked. I'm not advocating for everything at church to be one big emotional free-for-all... what I am advocating is that we as Christians stop trying to hide our imperfections as to look holier than we actually are, and admit to our problems, for the sake of healing, recovery, and growing, so we can actually become more holy. As the old and cliched AA line goes, "The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem."
Sure, I will lead by example... and since no one in the church wants to hear me say this in person, then here I am on my blog saying that, yeah... I have a problem. My heart is broken, and bleeding, and I need to talk with someone... I need someone to listen and understand... There's no need to give advice or provide feedback, just being there can bring help and healing.
There, that wasn't so hard. I'm sure you can pull away your facade and admit to your problems too.
Friday, July 10, 2015

Allowing Rejection

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting in church, doing research for a massive mind-map that I'm working on of the topics of the Bible with Biblical references to each topic, when I realized something, but I have to lead up to it...
God didn't want just another set of drones, programed to worship Him, He wanted someone to CHOOSE to worship, love and adore Him; someone who would see His handy work and apreciate everything that went into it's creation... but to be able to choose, they would need free will, and the ability to comprehend, and reason and emote... and how can one truly appreciate a creation if they themselves can not create in some way, on some level?
In order to give humanity free-will, comprehension, reasoning, emotion and creativity, He had to stamp us with His image; He created everything He did, for us to have something to rule over (that's his first command to us, by the way, to rule), because He knows that as He rules, we would also need something to rule over as well. He doted on us as though He were trying to spoil us; almost as if to give us EVERY REASON IN THE WORLD to choose to love, and worship, and adore Him!
BUT, humanity rejected Him...
Adam and Eve, though deceived, thought that God was somehow holding out on them, and thought they found a better offer than God's offer. While their decision separated them from God, God was not about to give up on them, or their offspring!
God set in motion a plan to allow humanity a second chance to be one with God, but it involved His own sacrifice on our behalf. He not only sacrificed His Godhood to live among humanity, but He knowingly allowed Himself to be rejected again by being put to death so that He could break the bonds of death so that all who believe in their hearts and confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord will be saved!
Now, after all that lead up, here's what I realized:
God allowed Himself to be rejected twice now and is STILL willing to give us this one last chance to come to Him, not so that He can punish us, but so that He can give us LIFE TO THE FULLEST! BUT this is it! It's up to you to decide how you will use your chance to know God. Think of Him what you will, but anyone who gives chance after chance to make things right can't be bad for you.
Friday, July 3, 2015

Offer of Life

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 4:13-14 NIV
We search for Life in so many places. We can't help but search for Life;  we thirst for Life as we thirst for water!  When we take hold of the false offers of Life that surround us, we end up finding that the satisfaction does not last. We then find ourselves on that search for Life again, be it sex, alcohol, drugs, food, money, possessions, power, alternate lifestyles/orientations, religion, relationships, drama, adventure, adrenaline, or something else that we can become addicted to, other than God. Our thirst for Life always returns.
This is why Jesus came to see the woman at the well. She was looking for Life in her relationships with sexual partners, a common place for men and women to search for Life. Jesus came to her, because He wanted more for her, He wanted her to find Life through Himself,  but not in the same way she has looked for it to this point, but rather on a much deeper, spiritual level. She did find Life, by the way, and when she did, those around her were affected, as many in her village found Life because she found Life.
If you found Life, wouldn't you feel the need to share that with everyone around you?
Friday, May 22, 2015

Offering Life

It's hard not to hear all the accusations toward the church or against certain Christians of being "unloving." The point being that Christians do not approve of certain life choices of those around them and therefore are unloving, while being called to love others; the popular barb is that it is hypocritical for them to not be nice to, and accept everyone. This is all done without even looking at the reason behind their perceived lack of approval. 
Lets say you see someone drowning. Do you stand and watch until they go under for the last time, or do you do something to help? For most, the answer is pretty simple; do something to help them. Let's say you have a friend who is addicted to some pretty hard core drugs. You've watched this friend go from being a strong, youthful, vibrant, person to a used up shadow of what they used to be. You know that if your friend stays on this path, your friend will die. What do you do? Is it loving to just stand there and watch your friend flirt with death, or do you do something to help? 
If you've been following this blog, you now know that the ways of God for us are a demonstration of His Love as they bring us Life, and as anything that is outside or contrary to His ways brings us death. Therefore, what ever brings us death is not love. At some level, many followers of Jesus use this as the reason behind their perceived lack of approval. Jesus offers Life, and we want Life, not just for ourselves, but for those who are suffering in their slow death. We want to lead people to reconnect to the source of Life. 
There are those like the person who is drowning who knows they are drowning and welcomes help and then there are those who like the addict, don’t necessarily realize that they need help. The latter often rail against those who are trying to show them the way back to Life, accusing their would-be heros of all sorts of hateful things. Ultimately it is always up to the afflicted to determine whether they will accept help. Sadly, not everyone will understand or accept the help they are offered.
Friday, May 15, 2015

Life, Love and Other Mysteries

Since God is Life, and as He has demonstrated that true Love brings Life to us, then His ways also bring us Life. If we scan through the Ten Commandments or the Seven Deadly Sins, or really anywhere in the Levitical Law, we can see how God’s commands to the Israelites were meant to bring them Life... or protect them from death. While it’s more of a popular idea that God is a cosmic killjoy, making sure that He is just trying to take everyone’s fun away, He is actually guiding His people away from things that He knows will hurt them, or what will bring us death, in other words.
For example, the Jews don’t eat pork. Why? Because God said so... yes there are several qualifiers, however it gets made fun of... a lot; especially by bacon lovers. However, recent information shows us that pork contains all sorts of toxins that are bad for human consumption. God was showing them the way of Life. Same with shellfish. How about sleeping around with various family members? Sounds kinda gross to us, but that is what the secular culture did for centuries. We now know that this reeks havoc with the human genome! Again, God was showing them the way of Life; might I add that this was all revealed to them a few thousand years before modern medical science was around!
Therefore, since God’s Love for us is Life, anything that is outside of or contrary to what He has revealed to us brings us death; and what ever brings us closer to death, is not love.

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