Thursday, October 30, 2014
Hopefully you wouldn't. If you did, I would hope you would be checking out more blogs related to your drug addiction problem.
But seriously, it's a crazy idea. No one in their right mind would follow along with someone teaching that a new level of spiritual elevation could be reached by doing something as crazy as eating donuts. Donuts are pretty amazing, but not that amazing.
However, whole religions have been formed because some genius said, "Hey, let's do this!" and like sheep the people followed. This is what we call a false teacher, and they are always with us unfortunately. For example, some guy found this set of "holy glasses" that helped him read hidden scriptures which revealed a "new revelation" of the Bible. And now, today, millions of people follow the cult of Mormonism. Or how about that one lady who somehow missed the part where God told Peter that all meats, as well as all peoples, are clean. So Seventh-Day Adventists don't eat meat to this day (unless they're really hungry).
I constantly harp on knowing God's truth, and there are so many reasons why you should. Maybe you thought you had a good idea about God. Did you cross-check it against what Scripture says? If you didn't you may surely be leading people astray. Or maybe you heard something that sounded like a wonderful idea from someone else. Did you check to see if this person got the idea from the Bible? If they didn't, you have surely been led astray.
God gave us His written Word so we don't have to wonder about these things. He gave it to us and gave us the opportunity to mass-distribute it so that we have no excuse about knowing the truth. Will we understand and comprehend all things related to life and God? No! But we have all that we need to be able to stand firm against Satan's attempts to deceive us.
This is why you all need to make it a habit of reading your Bible every day. Without doing so, you are making yourself susceptable to deception. I thought I knew what the Bible said through the teachers and the preachers, but then I started reading it myself daily and it took on a whole new level of impact on my life.
Why am I saying this? Because on this blog I do say a lot of things freely without giving a Bible reference with it. I try if I can, but I often lose my flow as a writer if I stop and take five minutes to find where that verse is that I know. The reason I can do this is because I know my Bible pretty well, enough that as I am writing here I can hear some verse in my head that relates to this. If I think that the reference is that important that it needs to be stated, I will do that. But I try to make everything I say here be in agreement with scripture. If you have any questions about something in particular I have said, please ask and I will find the reference. I don't wish to lead anyone astray.
But I want you all to understand that God's Word is all you need to be able to withstand doubt, tempation and false teaching, but you need to know the Word. The only way you can know it is if you spend time daily meditating on it and letting it become a foundational part of your life. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't eat bacon without checking it against scripture to see whether they are right or wrong.
(Spoiler alert: they are wrong. Bacon is a true gift from God. [<= that is my opinion.])
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
I always find it interesting how temptation likes to attack when we are at our weakest. It's like it knows that we are more likely to be swayed when we are lacking in the strength needed to fight it.
This is something I've been becoming more aware of in my own life, that while I must be vigilant all the time, the time I need to really be on the alert is when I am weakest. It's in those times when I need to be constantly reminding myself of God's truth because the lies become so easy to believe.
The truth is that God is our strength when we are weak. It's just up to us to ask for that strength and then respond obediently when he prompts us to act in trust. We can trust Him to be faithful when it really counts.
Monday, October 27, 2014
I've been reading in Deuteronomy for the last month or so, and it has been interesting. Of all the books in the Pentateuch, it is the book that features more life-applicable content than the other books, especially Leviticus. Deuteronomy is Moses basically preaching three sermons about the Law that was given by God to the nation of Israel. He restates some of it and adds a little extra to it. His main emphasis is exhorting Israel to keep the commandments given by God.
The commandments given in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) are, in fact, not that overly difficult or hard to fathom. Don't sleep with a woman who isn't your wife. Don't murder anyone. Don't participate in pagan rituals or practices. Don't have sex with animals (Yes, for some reason, that has been a problem for certain folks). Things that aren't difficult for a person to really do. There is a bulk of the Law centered around proper worship practice in the tabernacle/temple and which sacrifices to give when and how. Most things, if you follow the prescribed directions, you won't have that much of a problem.
Now, obviously, we as modern-day Christians do not have to follow this Law to the letter. We don't have to offer sacrifices. We can charge interest on loans. We can eat bacon (Hallelujah). But while the letter of the Law isn't fully applicable, the spirit of the Law is still very much applicable. Why? Because this particular Law of Moses given to Israel is a special application of what I refer to as the "True Law of God." God, in his righteousness, has a standard. For every application, there is right and wrong. God gave a certain application of this Law to Israel, but the truly righteous person follows the True Law of God that supersedes the Mosaic Law and applies to everyone.
The main difference is that we as Christians are covered by Jesus' sacrifice if we happen to goof up (which happens more often than we wish it did). So we can endeavor to attain to the standards of the True Law of God without being hindered by the times we fail it. Remember, God wants us to succeed, and so He has made a way for us to be able to succeed, even in our fallen human state.
That being said, Moses states in Deuteronomy 30:11 that ",,,what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach." So then how are we "all sinners" if attaining to the Law is so un-difficult?
Think about it: each of the laws given in the Pentateuch is not so difficult that we can't do them. We have no excuse. Except that doing all the laws becomes a little bit daunting. Even so, each of us has the complete human ability to fulfill the Law to the letter. It is not so out of reach. We are more than able.
But are we capable? No. We may have every ability to follow the Law, but we each have made the choice not to. We all make mistakes, and none of those are outside of our control. Our sinful nature influences us in such a way that we don't choose to make the right decision or take the right actions. So, in other words, our fallenness isn't due to a lack of ability; it's due to us choosing to sin.
Thanks be to God that He has sent Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins, completely wiping away every stain we ever had or will have. We are saved from our own depravity and the deserved punishment, as long as we choose to follow Jesus. Just like our condemnation is due to a choice, our salvation from that condemnation is also due to a choice. Therefore, let us choose to make every effort everyday to seek righteousness and holiness in our every thought and action. We will make mistakes, but it shouldn't be a big deal in the light of our constant pursuit of the righteousness that God gave His Son so we could actually seek to attain without hindrance. God wants us to succeed.
Friday, September 12, 2014
There are a lot of "good feelings" in this world. Most of them aren't wrong but they're not worth the time. Some are really bad but feel really good and that's why they're so tempting.
I've felt a lot of different "good feelings" over the years, ranging from good to not so good. I tend to seek good feelings, which is why I haven't yet had any alcohol. Drinking alcohol isn't a sin per se, I just know how I would react to the feeling.
But through all my experiences, the best feelings in the world are as follows, in reverse order:
(1) The Mariners winning.
(2) Losing myself in an incredible song on my iPod.
(3) Being overwhelmed by how beautiful my favorite girl is.
And of course, best of all, (4) the life-changing feeling of the Holy Spirit rushing through my soul. Nothing comes close.
So there's nothing inherently wrong with desiring good feelings. It's just remembering that some feelings can never be matched by any others. Those are the ones to desire above all else.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
But then again, remember what happened to Krispy Kreme. They made the big hullabaloo about finally having Krispy Kreme in Portland, and the hype didn't stick around. We still have two stores, and they do good business, but it's not so big a deal any more.
Interesting "facts" about In-N-Out:
1) For me, I am only "in and out" if I am lucky. They usually forget my order and I have to wait an extra ten to fifteen minutes. But it only seems to happen to me.
2) Their burgers are good. Their sauce is really good. But overall, their food is really kinda ho-hum. It's worth eating if you are in California, but more for the novelty of it than actual taste value.
3) Their fries are hand cut. Some people say that this is healthier, but these are lies. I work in the french fry business, and I can't go into too many specifics. But do you know why, when you get fries at In-N-Out or Five Guys, that the fry bag is so oily at the bottom? It's because the fries weren't blanched (a process that petrifies the surface of the fry so that it doesn't soak in the oils when cooked). On other fast food fries, the oils are on the outside only; on hand cut fries with no blanching, they are throughout. More oil equals more fat, and more fat equals less healthy.
4) "John 3:16" is on the bottom of each of their cups. This is cool. They haven't backed down from their Christian witness. So that is a very good thing about them.
Hopefully you're In-N-Out craving hasn't gotten worse. Because honestly, mine has.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
I have a Seattle Mariners outfielder Dustin Ackley Gnome. (I still owe the kid who gave it to me a bag of peach rings. I even have the peach rings.) The gnome sits proudly on my shelf next to my Matt Kemp bobblehead (LA Dodgers outfielder). I just got a Felix Hernandez Bobblehead to go along with them. Now they'll have more company, as I'm sure Dustin and Matt are bored sick with each other. Lol.
But anyway, back to the gnome.
Of course I keep the boxes and try to maintain the mint condition as much as I can. The gnome box is still on the table in my office (which only seems to accumulate all the piles of junk I am just too lazy to put away. Which is why I intend to simply remove the table and not make it that easy for me to be so lazy.)
I have a TriMet operators' stocking cap.
I didn't steal it. It was given to me by my youth pastor, who found it in the parking lot of our church. It took a year before I got it because his wife wanted to wash it and present it to me so I could see my expression. Unfortunately, the grand revealing never happened according to plan. But I did get the hat.
The hat was in my car, which also tends to accumulate junk until I have to get more people than two in it. Which is what happened when my dad and my friend Lane went up to Seattle with me to get the aforementioned Felix bobblehead. I had some pants stored in the car, since in Oregon you never know if the shorts will suffice or you will need the jeans, or vice versa. But they had been in there for awhile. So I took them out to wash them. I decided to have the hat washed too.
So today I walked into my office and I saw the gnome box with the TriMet hat draped over it to dry. And words came out of my mouth that I wasn't expecting.
"Why is there a hat on my gnome box?"
It struck me funny. It was a strange thing to say. I thought about it and came to the conclusion that that particular sentence was probably never said by anyone ever. It was something novel. It made me feel special because I had the opportunity to say words nobody has ever said before.
I hope I have the opportunity to say words that are special to someone someday that actually have some importance to reality, more than a hat on a gnome box. Like "Jesus loves you" or "Will you marry me?"
But until that happens, I will just be content with my gnome box opportunity.
I also realize I must have too much time on my hands.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
My first postulate is that suicide is a choice. Some may argue that it is not that simple. Yet, the concept of suicide is not that complicated. To state that it is a choice is asserting something rather obvious. The only way ending one's own life is not a choice is if a person is forcing someone to do it to themselves, and they can still choose to either concede or fight it. Suicide is a choice because the only one who can initiate it is the person considering it. It doesn't happen spontaneously.
If we bring clinical depression into the picture, it doesn't make any impact on the validity of the previous postulate. Clinical depression is a legitimate disease. People will argue that it is something that can be fixed by simply getting a new outlook on life or just believing in God's providence. They will say that depression is a mindset and that the Christian shouldn't ever have this kind of problem because of the hope they have in Jesus.
This position fails to take into account the fact that our souls and our bodies are inextricably linked while we are on this earth. Mental illness is as real of a problem as cancer or heart disease, and is possibly even more disturbing because of the unique connection to the person's mind that no other disease really has. So depression is not simply a mindset or an attitude; it is a real disease that must be treated with care and sensitivity.
However, even under the circumstance of a person suffering from depression, suicide is still a choice. It may seem like a more reasonable alternative to the hell that the person faces while dealing with the disease, but the choice to end one's life is still a choice.
Now that we have established this as something not relative, let me provide my view on the eternal consequences of suicide. (I do not mean to ruffle feathers, and if you do not want to hear it, do not read on. Just remember that my whole goal is to lead people to committing their lives fully to Jesus.)
I believe that suicide guarantees a person's exclusion from an eternity with Christ. It is a willful act of rebellion against a God who desires that we place everything in His hands and surrender all our desires and our will. It is a final decision to not let Jesus have any more opportunity to be Lord over their lives. Suicide says, "I am going to fix this my way." It is the easy way out.
How can I back this up? This is where I am stuck. You see, I was taught this position by my family and other influential people in my life. It is also reasonable to me. One person has said that there is not one place in the Bible where it says suicide is a one-way ticket to hell. I admit I have never seen a verse about this, and I am one who always desires to base every detail about his theology solely on what the Bible says. I will continue to look into this from a biblical standpoint. I want to get it right.
But let me offer a few reasonable thoughts that corroborate my position:
- Suicide goes against the very nature of a relationship with Jesus. Christians are supposed to place their hope and trust in Jesus and refrain from taking matters into their own hands. We submit completely to His leading, especially in the area of dealing with suffering.
- Depression is not a sin, but it is certainly an evil tool of Satan aimed to deceive a person from the unchanging truth of God. Seeing it from this point of view, suicide is the desired goal of Satan that takes a person out of eternity with Jesus, which is the desired goal of God.
- I can only think of two Bible characters who committed suicide. King Saul fell by his own sword when he couldn't get anybody else to do the deed for him. Judas Iscariot hung himself after he started realizing what he had done, which was initiating the death of the Son of God Himself. The Bible specifically states that the Spirit of God was not in these men, but instead Satan had a foothold. Neither had faith or salvation when they took their own life.
- The fact that nothing verbatim is mentioned by any of the New Testament writers about suicide shows me that it is not an option for a Christian. Instead, we are called to "consider it pure joy when we encounter trials." (This is easier said than done, especially for a person suffering from depression. However, God's Word is unchanging and is His truth is not relative.)
Monday, August 11, 2014
Jennifer Huston, the 38-year old mother from Dundee, was found dead by apparent suicide.
Six-year old Jenise Wright from Bremerton, Washington was murdered. A seventeen-year old boy was arrested and will be tried as an adult on murder charges.
The body Yosuke Onishi of Japan, missing on Mt. St. Helens since November, was found.
Race car driver Kevin Ward, Jr. was killed on the race track after he got out of his car to confront driver Tony Stewart, who inadvertently ran over Ward.
Four people were killed in a Clackamas County crash.
Police arrested the woman who killed her two-year old daughter and injured her other teenage daughter in Cannon Beach last week.
A two-year old reportedly drowned in a Washington lake today.
And of course, Robin Williams committed suicide.
My heart continues to pound thinking about the sadness of all this. All the injustice, the grief, the hopelessness, the lives lost. It makes me wonder how such terrible things can happen. It makes me see how people can ask how a loving God can allow such horrible things.
Now, I know that God does allow these things to happen, but not because He wants them to happen. God has no desire for anyone to hurt. We weren't made for that purpose. But God gave us the will to choose to serve Him or not. Because people don't serve Him, sin is in the world. And because sin is in the world, these kind of tragedies become everyday occurrences.
All these tragedies are stemmed from a choice. Some were specific direct choices that caused the tragedy. Others were choices that weren't meant for any harm. Williams and Huston chose to end their lives, leaving sadness for the people they left behind and securing for themselves an unfortunate eternity. The people who physically hurt other people chose to let evil fill their hearts and act it out on others. Ward chose to get out of his car on a racetrack with fast cars moving toward him. All of these were bad choices which could have been prevented.
But Onishi chose to hike on the mountain alone. He had no desire to die on the mountain, but hiking alone wasn't a very good choice. And the road people in Clackamas County chose not to spend the money to paint a road with lines and put up reasonable speed limit signs. And the driver of the car didn't use the caution one should use when driving at night on back country roads.
Why does God allow us to make such bad choices? He doesn't want anyone to be hurt. He doesn't want anyone to die needlessly. With the anger I feel about the death of Jenise Wright, consider how angry it makes the God who created her. But God wants us to choose Him. He wants us to consciously decide to commit our lives to Him. With the choice to follow Him comes the choice not to follow Him, which leads to the undesirable effects we have seen.
It seems odd that God would create a world knowing that it would be filled with sadness and injustice. He did create the world knowing it would not choose Him, but does that make Him hard and cold about our pain? No! This is best seen in the shorted verse in the Bible, John 11:35: "Jesus wept."
We think of sadness as a bad thing, something that if we were perfect we would never do. But while sadness is certainly a bad thing, it is not something that we experience because we have sin in our lives. Jesus was perfect; He never sinned. But He still cried. He wept because His friend Lazarus had died. Ironically, it wasn't Lazarus's death that caused Him to cry, since He knew He would raise Lazarus to life in a matter of minutes. Jesus knew all the other people He created and dearly loved who weren't going to choose Him. The wailers were wailing away by the tomb, filled with hopelessness and grief. Mary and Martha weren't even walking with faith, even knowing better than most people the power Jesus had.
And in that moment, Jesus may have even seen Jenise Wright, or Jennifer Huston, or Robin Williams, all of whom would go from life to death because of someone's choice. It was not what Jesus wanted. The Bible even says in I Peter 3:9 that God does not want anyone to perish, but instead that everyone come to repentance. But God has allowed people the choice to come to Him or to turn away from Him, which means that people are free to pursue their evil desires, often leading to pain and injustice for those who, while just as sinful, were certainly not deserving of such pain.
But think: if Jesus who knew no sin still felt such sadness about the lives lost while he was on earth, does God in heaven feel the same sadness? Likely, yes. No one sees the injustice more than God, who loves people so much to the point of giving His life for them, both the victim and the person committing the crime. God knew that He would have to experience this sadness if He was to allow us the choice to follow Him, but He also knew that this pain is only allowed for a time. There will be a day when the sadness of this world will be gone forever. No more sin equals no more injustice, no more pain, and no more sadness. And that day will only be experienced by those who have the hope of Jesus in their hearts, who have made the choice to serve and follow God Jehovah.
So if you do not have this hope, come to Jesus right now. Fall on your knees and cry out to Him to give you this hope. Ask forgiveness for the sins you have done and the bad choices you have made, and choose to follow Jesus through any mountain and valley He guides you through. It doesn't matter what you have done; we are all sinners deserving of death, but given life through Christ's love and grace. Life will still be filled with sadness, but you will have the everlasting hope of eternal life with Jesus to help you get through these tough times.
I know that these sad news stories are more commonplace than it seems. And I know that more will come, especially as we day-by-day approach the end of these times. But I have the hope in Jesus to help me see that this world is not all there is, and it certainly is not my home.
(Please note that, although this world is not our home and there is so much pain in it, God still has a reason for you to be here. If you are battling thoughts of suicide, please know that you are loved and that there is so much to live for, both here and in eternity. Pastors at your local churches are available to pray with you. Also, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available at 1-800-273-8255. Whichever way you choose, just know that we all love you and never want to lose you. And God loves you and has given His life for you. That's how much you are worth to the God who made you!)
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Let's be honest. Some people may read this and say, "What a hypocrite he is." But seriously, am I alone in this? Certainly not. Even the strongest Christian occasionally finds himself wondering how he could be so led astray. We fail. We make mistakes. Sometimes these are big mistakes. But big or small, each sin is bad. Each sin is enough to condemn a person to death.
When I think about people, I am always reminded of the VeggieTales episode "Dave and the Giant Pickle." Dave is tending the sheep. But the sheep have a special problem: they fall over. So Dave has to spend most of his time helping tipped-over sheep stand back up.
We are these tipped sheep. We can do amazing things, make great accomplishments, and do great things for society. But then we tip over. We do something so stupid it makes any reasonable person choke. Unfortunately, we are also the reasonable people, which extends the problem even further. We are flawed.
Now, we were not designed to be flawed. We were made by God to be perfect. But we were made with a choice: do what God wants or do what we want/ It was the simplest command: do not eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Not very complicated. But Satan decided to very sneakily and slyly confuse Eve so she would do the opposite of what God wanted. It was really hard for him to do it, too. He told her, "God lied, eat the fruit." And she did. (Yes, folks, that was sarcasm.)
Funny how the lives of billions and trillions of people were wrecked by one person's silly mistake, and one very gullible husband's 'yes dear' moment. Thanks, Adam and Eve. I don't really have a lot of respect for you two.
So here we are, tipsy sheep. I see idiot drivers risking lives to get to work three minutes earlier. I see scared teenage girls desperately trying to figure out why she had to sleep with that guy and get pregnant. I see the occasional pastor being caught in some adulturous act that makes headline news. I see drunks and druggies sleeping on buses with no better thing to take them out of that endless cycle of pain. And I see me, being deceived by the same stupid lie over and over. I know better. I know what's good and bad. But I slip up. I fail, and I deserve eternal punishment for it. And honestly, I know you all know what I mean. It's not just me.
But I do know one thing: my God knew from before time began that I wouldn't have a fat chance to save myself. I can't cover for my one stupid mistake because another pops up not long after. He sent us the Law to show us that we can't do it ourselves. We can't keep all the commandments, even the simple list of ten everyone quotes. We can't do it ourselves.
Then God breaks through the barrier of our stupidity, obliterating sin and death and all of our errors, past and present, calling us to follow Him. Now we are His children. How did that happen? Why did that happen? What value does God see in me that is worth giving a second of His attention, let alone His very life? I don't see it.
Thankfully, God does. He loves me with a love that never fails, that puts up with my stupidity and tips me up every time I fall over. And He's promised that I am going to be made into a perfectly holy and whole person someday, into what I was originally planned to be. And this is something that He actually wants to do; He doesn't just do it because He has to. It blows my mind.
So if you are like me and occasionally screw up the world, take heart. You are not alone, and you have a Savior who wants to take your brokenness and make you into something worth more than the value of the world. You don't have to understand why He does, but He does. His love endures through our stupidity.
If you want to understand this better, do a study on the book of Romans. It'll rock your world.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Wouldn't it be lovely if Satan played by the rules? It would be so easy to win battles if the enemy stayed within the boundaries and restrictions to which we adhere. Unfortunately, sin doesn't give a hoot about playing by the rules.
I find myself confident that I can win any battle, that I have received a clear mind through prayer. Then I find myself in a place where I am vulnerable, and sin attacks. I would love it if sin would recognize that I am down right now and am incapable of fighting the battle at full strength. But no, that's not how sin works. It doesn't care one bit about common courtesy. If the man is down, kick him harder. If he has a wound, pour the whole salt shaker in it.
Friends, don't fall under the lie that temptation is going to respect your weakness and wait until you're stronger. I remember stories of the beginning of the Civil War. People thought viewing a battle would be exciting, so they camped out alongside the battle lines so they could get a great view. But oh the horror when the battle proved to not be a nice fencing match. It was bloody war.
The spiritual battle is between God's army and the darkest of all enemies. When Satan and his cronies attack, they don't use approved or acceptable methods. They figuratively kill innocent women and children. They set up extermination camps. They don't care if it's just or fair. It's why they're called evil.
Fortunately, they also fight for a losing cause.
Thanks be to God who has already won the battle, and who has invited us sorry sinners to be redeemed children and victors with Him. Remember that as long as Jesus is your God, no attack by Satan can harm your soul's eternal hope, even if you do stumble.
I Corinthians 10:13 says that "God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear." Even in the dirtiest of attacks by the enemy, we can still be strong in Christ; we can still beat it. But if we do fail, remember the words of Romans 8:1: "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." God has made a way for victory no matter what.
Just remember that the battle might get a little messy.
Monday, June 9, 2014
I just read an article, or more precisely glanced through an article, that was talking about how we should stop saying that God has "blessed" us with material things. It argued that Christians should not consider those things blessings, because doing so reduces God to a wish-granting genie of some sort.
I think that's a bunch of hullabaloo.
This comes out of years of learning what it means to be grateful for what I have. I am not necessarily rich in American terms, but I certainly have plenty of material things to be thankful for, things that I definitely don't deserve. Things that I'm not owed based on anything special about who I am. And I know that the only reason I have these material things is because God has allowed me to have them.
Some things I have worked for and earned, but I still respect the fact that any talents, any opportunities, any successes or victories have happened or exist solely by the grace of God. I may have had to work to make these things happen, but the tree don't grow if God doesn't make it.
What was the point the article was trying to make? People's material wealth and possessions aren't blessings. (I'm seriously struggling to make a sensible explanation of what this article was trying say.)
How can you say that material things aren't blessings from God? If God chooses to bless His children with material things, why shouldn't He? He made EVERYTHING. He owns EVERYTHING. Nobody has more material possessions than God. And in heaven there will be greater material blessings than this world could ever fathom.
I understand that there certainly are more kinds of blessings than material ones, many of which are much more valuable than wealth. But to tell God that any monetary possessions aren't blessings is downright arrogant.
My parents have given me many things over my lifetime, and I definitely have not deserved such favor. They give me these things because they love me and because they can, and because I seek to respect them and be the best son I can be.
Likewise, the only reason God gives us material blessings is because He loves us. As a matter of fact, the only reason He has given us anything is because He loves us. We don't deserve any of it. That's what makes all these things blessings. God has allowed us to have these things because He loves us, and unless He has a plan to use these things to bring about something else in His will, that reason is sufficient enough for why He blesses.
But the heart of the article is that our material blessings don't dictate how special or worthy we are. God chooses to bless some with money and things, and not others. There are many types of blessings. The most important is the gift of grace that saves us. Whether we have accepted that grace is what defines our worth. Salvation is the only blessing that provides eternity.
However, I will continue to thank God for the blessings of material things. I pray that I can turn those blessings around to give the glory back to Him who is the only one worthy of anything in the first place.
Sunday, June 8, 2014
I loose my focus really easily.
Sometimes if someone interrupts me when I speak I forget what I'm talking about.
Right now I'm trying to remember what I was going to write about in this sentence because I got distracted.
I'm sure if I got tested when I was younger they would have said I had A.D.D. But Mom doesn't believe that A.D.D. exists, but that it's based around how your parents train you. So instead of medicating me, they just told me that I had to focus and gave me no other option. So I focused.
I can focus when I really have to. But when it's not that important or I'm really tired, I don't. Caffeine helps me focus, sugar does not.
I believe that there are kids, like me, who have a harder time focusing. But I firmly believe that any kid can focus, unless that have some condition like autism. It just takes commitment and an understanding that it has to be done, so I'm going to do it.
So I learn to make it work.
Paul was the greatest evangelist of all time. Billy Graham is likely a close second, but Paul was not a Billy Graham. Paul would travel from city to city leading thousands to Jesus, but then along the way he would stop for a few months in one city to help the new converts grow.
So many times we think that leading people to Jesus we have done sufficiently. I do not follow the "once saved always saved" philosophy (though I do believe in eternal security, but that's based on God's faithfulness to us, not the other way around); hence, people need to remain in Jesus and grow in Him. That's why Paul stayed.
It's the reason my calling has always been to the church, not to evangelism. I'm not saying I haven't been called to witness to others, because that's the calling that's universal to all Christians. But my personal focus is on helping already saved people to grow in Christ consistently, and the church is the perfect outlet to help them know Christ and know about Christ better.
So remember, your walk with the Lord is only as strong as what you put into it. Get into the habit of reading your Bible and praying every day, and watch your ritual religion become something more like the relationship people say it is.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Faith doesn't seek proof. Faith seeks results.
It doesn't look for things to validate its existence. It expects to see only the highest quality produce come from its existence and is disappointed if it produces anything less.
Sometimes things happen to test our faith. Evil likes to throw things at a weak Christian, trying to get him to question his faith, which turns his attention toward his faith and away from the Object of his faith.
I've had really cool things happen in my life and been able to point to the sky and say, "This is what my God does." I've found myself unsurprised about these miracles, proving that I had no doubt it could happen.
But there are times, like right now, when things happen to test our faith, things that frankly suck. It hurts to see people I love hurt, I would say unjustly.
But God has a plan. This is easy to say when the circumstances are good. When they're not so wonderful, I write this with a gulp and a sigh. Yet I know it to be true.
I want the faith of Abraham. He knew he wasn't being tested by evil; he was really being tested by God (in the case of offering Isaac). God wasn't trying to see if Abraham's faith was strong. He knew it was and wanted to show the world for all of time.
God, give me that faith. I want to be able to prove that my faith is valid by demanding results from it and expecting nothing less. I want You to be able to hold me up as an example of faith like You did with Abraham. That's the faith God wants in His people. God has been so faithful, why should I doubt now?
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
So I killed two spiders this morning.
This is quite a feat, considering my hatred of squishing bugs.
The first was huge. I mean, huge. And all body too. Wasn't no Daddy Longleg, that is for sure. Biggest spider I've seen in the house ever.
I missed on my first attempt at gently coaxing him off the wall and into the toilet with toilet paper, but I was successful in picking him off the floor and flushing him down the drain. I did a little celebratory dance, proud of myself knowing I'm not reluctant to go find someone else willing to kill the bug.
A few minutes later, I moved my shoe and a small red spider went scurrying off the rug and onto the hardwood. I'm like, "You're no match for me, dude," and took him out confidently with a tissue.
Killing these spiders was really encouraging for me. They made me feel like a true man (besides the expression on my face when I first saw the big one). I also needed a pick-me-up since I felt like a bit of a failure due to a prior moment of weakness. It's like God sent the spiders as easy victories for me to tell me I can still win at life.
It also reminded me of how sometimes if a big battle comes and we hold fast, the second battle usually looks much smaller and we feel more confident that we can win it. It's often just so hard to get past the first battle.
Thankfully, both spiders died today. I pity the next bug that tries to face me today.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
But when we say, "Thank you, Lord," afterward, do we realize what we mean?
Let's look at it this way. Imagine there is this American being held captive in some foreign land. (We all can probably think of one who really is being held captive somewhere, sadly). But just assume there is only one man, and he is being held in a box surrounded by a few thousand soldiers from the foreign country. Now, the President of the United States orders all the active duty soldiers in the U.S. Army to storm the site of the prisoner, army against army to free that one man. Many American soldiers die in this raid, and many others are left injured in some way. But the army is successful in rescuing the one man.
He remains silent on the flight back to the states, and when he gets off the plane at the U.S. airport, he turns around to the soldiers with him, and yells, "Thanks!" He then picks up his bag and walks away.
What do you think the soldiers coming off the plane will think of his response? How will the media interpret this response? He said 'thank you,' but did he really mean it? And even if he did, was he completely unaware of the sacrifice that thousands of American soldiers paid to free him?
This is a crazy scenario, I know. But think about it. What did Jesus go through to save each of us? The life that He laid down was given as if He was giving it for each one of us, and it just works out that it was sufficient for all of us. So I can say that Jesus, the God of the universe, the greatest King who ever lived, the only thing in existence that really truly matters or has worth, came down from his glorious abode to a world He created that rejected Him so He could suffer and die on two sticks in order to remove the chains of my sin, and then rise victoriously so that I could be able to leave this world that is itself better than I deserve and live in the aforementioned glorious abode that only God and His holy angels are really worthy to spend any time in. And all I can say is, "Thanks"?
Every time we sin, we become unworthy of this gift again. But every time we sincerely repent, we are gladly reminded that His mercy has covered us and His grace will never leave. The scope of this give is beyond understanding. And God understands perfectly well that we can never repay what He has given for us, even a small chunk of it.
But Lord, let me learn what it means to adequately thank You for saving me. Let me live with a thankful heart for all the blessings I've been given, but most importantly for the life You freely laid down because You loved me. Let the grandness of Your gift never be overlooked in my heart. Without it, I would be nothing.
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Happy Easter everyone! I hope you have been able to enjoy the celebration of Christ's resurrection with your eyes fixed on the true meaning and its significance.
I woke up this morning at 8:55am. Considering I had to be at church at 8:45am, this was a problem. I had set my alarm last night, I just forgot to turn it on. So I was 50 minutes late to kids church. Pastor Phil was running kids church in the format of an archeological expedition to find the mystery of where Jesus is. It was very well done and the kids did a good job of participating. Unfortunately, I got there with only time to man my station for the last of the four groups of kids. Considering this week I was actually prepared, I was quite disappointed with myself.
How can I forget to turn my alarm on? And how can I forget to close our garage door like I did when I got home and it sat open for five hours? It all comes down to the things I take seriously. I suffer from chronic tunnel vision, and its something no pair of glasses can fix.
How can I remedy this situation? Well, it starts by caring about the details of what matters. This is a conscious decision that needs to be made, and a mindset that requires discipline. It doesn't mean I shouldn't care about the things that matter to me; it means I need to make these more important things matter to me too, and to make them matter more.
This is a lot like Easter (and most other holidays). We get so caught up in the holiday feeling and the family and church events that it's easy to forget the reason behind it. Easter isn't about sitting in a pew at church and singing a few songs. It's about celebrating the fact that Jesus rose from the grave. It was the most important thing to ever happen to the universe since its inception, and the most important thing to happen to my life. Yet, it's something that just becomes something we think about during the songs and sermon at church. It should be something that we fix our eyes on regularly, so much so that it becomes the thing that defines what we are.
So let's work together to put what matters most first. Whether it's consciously recognizing the importance of the fact that Christ is risen, or remembering to turn your alarm on before going to bed, let's be defined as people who put the most important things in life first. Everything else will simply fall into place.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
We observe Good Friday, the day that Jesus was crucified to pay the punishment we should have paid. We also observe Easter Sunday, the day that Jesus rose from the grave. Both days are obviously crucial to the history of the universe. But do we ever stop to think about Saturday?
If you think about it, that Saturday was one of the darkest days in the history of the earth. God had literally come to earth, and was now dead. The problem was, the people were expecting Jesus to take power as a king of some sort, overthrowing the Roman government and freeing the people from their oppression. So when He died, they were really confused and likely quite disappointed. Saturday was probably a day where many of Jesus' followers were questioning what they had believed. How could they just go on with their lives after what they had seen and experienced?
But see, what made this confusion silly was that Jesus had on numerous occasions directly told them what was going to happen to Him. In Luke 18:32-33, speaking about Himself, Jesus said: "'He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.'" How hard was this to understand? According to the next verse, "The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about." I don't think this means that God directly blinded their hearts to the truth, or that He was trying to trick them. I think they were just so caught up in their own way of thinking that they just didn't take seriously what Jesus was saying. They probably thought it was some sort of metaphor, or maybe Jesus was just taking the Debbie Downer perspective on their pending arrival in Jerusalem. One thing's for sure: they were told many times (this had been the third instance recorded in Luke), and they still didn't get it.
That the women went back to tell the apostles that Jesus had risen and they didn't believe them tells me that Saturday had not been a hopeful day for the group. They obviously weren't expecting Him to rise again on the third day like He said, since if they were expecting that, someone probably would have been sitting in line of sight of the tomb waiting for it to happen. (If the guards hadn't been there, they would all be sitting right by the stone.) But no, they were hiding scared. They were fearing for their lives, wondering what they should do with their futures now that Jesus was gone.
There are still many people living in this ignorance. A Jehovah's Witness came to our door recently and invited us to "a memorial celebrating the death of Jesus." How can you be a witness of Jehovah if He's dead? And there are many people who have been deceived to think that God is still dead, or that He never lived. What a dismal outlook if you're living in a Saturday perspective.
But there's good news: GOD'S NOT DEAD! He's surely alive! And you can know Him. He's there for you and He wants to be in relationship with you. All you need to do is confess your sins and choose to follow Him. He is risen, and the fact that He rose set the precedent so that you can rise too. Death could not hold Him down, and it won't hold us down either.
Thank the Lord that this particular Saturday was just another 24-hour day. The sun went down, the sun came up, and the Son came up too.
Friday, April 18, 2014
There are certain things that we do that are not good. These things lead to pain, sadness, and guilt. This is what we call 'sin,' which means something that displeases God and goes against his authoritative perspective of right and wrong. Sin is something we as Christians are called to avoid. When temptation comes, we need to stand our ground and make the choice to do what's right. It's not easy, but it can be done through the strength of Christ.
But Satan is clever. I won't give him credit for much of anything, but one thing that is sure is that he is clever. He uses his skillful deception to take things that are not sin and weave them into the picture in our heads of what constitutes sin. So in our attempts to avoid sinning, we can shun the very things God has created for good.
An example is cake. Cake is really good. It is very tasty and brings a sense of pleasure from the sweet experience of taking in each flavorful bite. But if you eat too much cake, you can get really fat. Too much cake can also lead to a number of health problems. Eating too much cake because it tastes good (and you can't help but eat it, and then some more) also has a name: gluttony. The gluttonous person is never satisfied with their slice of cake and eats more, more, and more until they find themselves in a seriously uncomfortable situation.
Gluttony is bad. So what is the most obvious solution? Don't eat the cake! If you don't eat the cake, then you don't take in the calories and sugar, and you stay alive. That is a logical conclusion.
But is cake bad? Of course not. There is nothing inherently wrong with cake. It was created with love by a kind chef who wasn't trying to make us fat, but instead was giving us the opportunity to experience the momentary pleasure of taking in the delicious heap of sweetness known as cake. Therefore, the sin is not in the cake, it's in the excessive eating of the cake and the lack of satisfaction with the amount that was eaten.
I will be writing more about some of the things God has taught me about how to best fight sin in future posts. But here I want you to be encouraged to discern what is right and what is wrong. There are things that give us pleasure that aren't inherently bad. It's how we use them that makes them bad. Another well-known example is alcohol. Many Christians teach that drinking alcohol is a sin. The Bible never says that drinking alcohol is a sin (as Jesus Himself drank alcohol and he never sinned); what the Bible does say is a sin is drunkenness. There's nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine, or a can of beer while watching the game. But consuming alcohol to the level where you lose your inhibitions and are no longer sober, that is the sin.
I don't however want to dismiss the reasoning many people have about why alcohol is considered bad. There are many people who can't handle one drink without wanting more and more. Alcohol has the potential to cause harm and it is easy to abuse. This is the reason I have chosen not to have any alcohol yet: I don't know how my body will respond. Will I have a drink some time in my life? Likely, yes. All the members of my family occasionally have a drink, but they all know how to do so without abusing it. But if you believe (or know) that drinking alcohol will lead you to sin, then don't drink it.
But at the same time, alcohol was made by God (both at the beginning of time and at Cana when Jesus turned water into it). It has a purpose, like cake. Don't judge a person just because he drinks; likewise, don't judge a person because he does not. Just know where you stand when it comes to these things that Satan tries to make 'sinful' when they really don't have to be. With many of these things, there is a time and a place, and they can become sin if you know that it's not the time nor the place (for example, drinking alcohol before leaving for a long road trip: obviously a sin).
Still, as Christians, we are called to rise above the base things of this world. We must avoid sin at all costs, but we also need to let God refine our minds so that what used to lead us into sin doesn't anymore. This can only be done by continually connecting with God and heeding His guidance. We are not bound by sin anymore; we are free. This means we can be free from the burden of the gluttony by which we may have been formerly ensnared. But, this also means we are free to have our cake and eat it too.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
I got called to jury duty. Yes, it was my first jury summons, and I ended up sitting as one of the six jurors. It was a fascinating experience. The judge was both stern and understanding (and really cool). The district attorney tried the case like she was on a TV drama. And I had the privilege of working with five other first-time jurors of various ages and backgrounds who were all very nice and concerned about making the right decision.
But while I understood the scope of what I was doing, it was right when I was about to check the 'guilty' box on the verdict sheet that it really hit me what an impact I was making. My simple 'X' was going to have lasting consequences on the life of this person. Because of the decision I made along with my colleagues, this man would have to serve punishment for a crime.
Now, as in any serious matter, my natural reaction is to pretend the concern doesn't exist. It isn't a happy thought, and it's comfortable to live in blissful ignorance. But the reality is, I made a decision that affects a man's life in an unfortunate way. Although (according to our deliberation) he deserved it, the fact remains that his future won't be the same because of my actions.
Jury duty provides a very clear and undeniable example of how my actions impact others. But actually every single decision we make affects other people's lives. If I walk down the street and smile at a passing stranger, I have altered the course of that person's life. It may seem inconsequential, but what if that person was having a rough day? What if I was the first person to even acknowledge her existence that day? Even if she thought I was a creeper and turned just slightly, this has made an impact. As an example, imagine we were walking through an open field where there were no buildings or obstructions of any kind. Say my awkward smile caused the person to turn three degrees (out of 360; remember geometry class?). It may not seem like a lot, but if that person walked for another one mile in a straight line, she would end up 277 feet away from where she would have been had I not smiled at her. That's more than one standard city block.
So this is why we need to consider how our actions affect others. We have little control over most of our actions' consequences, but there are plenty of opportunities to really consider the impact our decisions make. Should I go hang out with that friend tonight? Should I do what my mom asks me to do immediately or put it off? Should I be rude to my boss today, even if he's been rude to me? Fill in the blank. Just don't wait for jury duty to consider how your actions affect others. It may literally mean life or death.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Sometimes it is just too easy to focus too much on what God is doing. Oh, focus on this is valid, since what He's doing is kind of the most important part of my life I can experience. And He wants to teach so much through these experiences.
But I should never forget that the reason He does these things and teaches so much through them is because He wants to draw me to Himself. He wants me to know Him more and to place all my trust and cares on Him.
The sad part is when I get so focused on the things He does I lose sight of Him. I pray all about seeing the miracles and the victories, I fail to bow down before the victor and miracle-worker and give Him the praise He deserves. I forget that even if He didn't do these things or reveal Himself to me in this way, He is still worthy of the praise. He is God, and that never changes.
Fortunately, He doesn't chastise me for getting off track. Instead, He gently draws me back to Himself. It is a beautiful thing how He shows his grace and mercy so clearly. He wants to draw me back so that I can behold the majesty of who He is, be awed by the fact that He would do such amazing things in my life, and then proceed back into His marvelous plan together.
In Exodus 20:3, God says, "You shall have no other gods before Me." We usually think of this as meaning abstaining from idol-worship, or even more broadly any form of faith that is not the worship of the One True God. But the gist of it is that anything that is not God becomes a "god before Him," even the miracles He does. We need to make sure we are worshiping God alone and nothing else. The other wonderful things should just draw our attention back to being in awe of God and worshiping Him more.
Lord, thank You that you so mercifully look past my misplaced focus, and that You graciously draw me back to Yourself. Let all my attention be focused on how great You are, and let every thought seek to worship and glorify You, the Author of all things bright and beautiful.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Righeousness is a really easy concept to understand, but it is really hard to adequately apply it to the framework of our lives. There is a seeming contradiction between the need for righteousness and the sufficiency of grace. If grace is sufficient to cover all my mistakes and to get me into heaven, why is the existence of righteousness so emphasized? Why does it matter if I do things the "right" way?
The answer for this that God has shown me comes from what my mother has learned and therefore taught me. She takes a good 45 minutes to an hour every morning to read her Bible and ponder the depths of knowledge that each word in Scripture brings. She likes to share these with me, which means I often get stuck listening to what she has to say for 25-30 minutes longer than I really want to. While it is a tad frustrating because I kind of do want to start my day eventually, the wisdom and knowledge that I have gleaned from those times has really exposed a lot of the mysteries I have pondered. Many of these things I will likely share with you here. It would be a shame for all her learning to end with me.
The question that my mom asked me was simple: "What was Jesus' purpose here on earth?" Logically, I gave her some of the most basic and well-known answers: die for our sins, rise to give us life, lead a godly example, fulfill prophecy, heal the sick, call others to follow Him, etc. All of these answers were correct, of course, but it wasn't the answer she was looking for. She was looking for something that was the underlying reason He did all of these things. The answer? To do the will of the Father. If you think about it, Jesus purpose was only to do whatever the Father willed. He spoke in multiple instances about how He didn't do anything by His own initiative, but because it was what the Father wanted Him to do (Matt. 11:27), and when He was in agony in the garden while He prayed before being arrested, the thing that drove Him to continue was the fact that the Father's will was what came first and foremost (Matt. 26:42; Luke 22:42). (I know it may be a bit confusing, considering that Jesus was God and the Son and the Father were and always will be, in fact, completely the same thing. But, a discussion on the Trinity is not pertinent right now. Just look at it this way: Jesus' will was to do the Father's will, which makes their wills the same, in essence.)
A few weeks later, the thought came to mind about what my real purpose is here on earth. I have been able to see God begin to use me in some radical ways lately. Many of these things are defining who I am. But when I asked myself the question, "What is my purpose here?", before I could respond I was bombarded with the prompting to use the same response: To do the will of the Father. This means that I am here to do whatever God wants me to do, to be used as a tool for whatever purpose He has. This means I don't have to know everything or where every path is leading, all I know is that every day I need to seek to do the will of the Father. This will result ultimately in God being glorified, and blessings to fall upon anyone who God wants to bless because of it (see also Matt. 7:21, 12:50; John 8:28, 14:13).
So then the next logical question is obvious: What is the will of the Father? This is a topic worthy of a blog post of its own, specifically about looking for the Lord's leading, the importance of prayer and Bible reading, and the spiritual gift of discernment that all believers should crave. But the simple answer is to follow the pattern of Jesus by having an attitude of openness to the Father's leading on a minute-by-minute basis. When we seek God's leading, we find out what He wants us to do and what steps He wants us to take toward whatever goals He has laid out in the grand plan He has written for this world.
What does all this have to do with righteousness, you ask? This is the answer to the question I posed earlier: Why should we do things the "right" way? Because it is the will of the Father that we follow Him and act as He would act. We can't honestly think that we will be able to do amazing works for God's kingdom if our minute-by-minute actions are not in line with God's standard. We were created completely righteous, but then after that we sinned. Then the law was given so that we could see what God's standard of righteousness was, but it was a standard we never could attain to because of our sin. So Jesus came to set us free from that bondage and offer us grace so that we can seek righteousness without the penalty and bondage of sin holding us down. Grace is not a license to sin, but a permit for the pursuit of righteousness (Rom. 6).
I know this is something that sounds so great. But I also know that often we think that there is no way on earth we could ever attain to the righteousness that God desires of us. When we have fallen in a hole of our own sin, it looks like we will never amount to anything righteous. And even when we are at a very good and strong place in our walk with God, it looks like "our best" will never be anywhere close to what God would deem acceptable.
Trust me, I have been there too many times, and I know every Christian has been there as well. But the great news is that our righteousness is not dependent on us! Jesus has made it so that our righteousness is solely dependent on His faithfulness. In Phillippians 3:8-9, Paul declares that he has put off all worldly garbage so that he "may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith." As we seek God, we grow in faith, and faith produces righteousness in us. Therefore, the righteousness we desire is made possible through simply seeking God, and as that faith produces a salvation that is dependent not on us but on Christ and His work, our righteousness is possible solely because of what God has already done and what He is going to do.
To prove to us how confident we should be in the righteousness He has provided, He has surrounded us with that righteousness in such a way that we will never be outside of its hold on us. This concept of the certainty of the promise of righteousness to those who believe is something I call the "threefold righteousness." Simply put, the righteousness of God is established in our past, present, and future.
- The first righteousness is the righeousness that is imputed on us immediately as we accept Christ into our lives. When we invite Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, we accept His sacrifice on the cross as covering our sins. He then takes His righteousness and imputes (attributes or ascribes) it on us. When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives at conversion, He changes the "lens" that the Father sees us through; instead of seeing us based on our own righteousness or lack thereof, He sees us based on His own righteousness. God has literally changed the way He sees us. He no longer looks at us and sees our sin; He looks at us and sees His own righteousness. And that can never change. (See also Rom. 3:22,26, 4:5-6,24; Gal. 2:21)
- The second righteousness is the righteousness that we accrue as we follow Jesus. Obviously, we will never be perfect as long as we are on this earth, because of the sin that still resides in our flesh. But because of the mercy and grace that Jesus brought through His blood, we can pursue righteousness here on earth. We pursue righteousness by seeking to know God more, primarily through His Word and through prayer. It's like getting to know a good friend: the more you know who that friend is, the more you become like that friend (assuming you actually want to be like them). This is why the most important thing you can do every day is to read your Bible and pray; through these you learn who God is and you can conform your life to Him. And while we know we will never reach perfection here on earth, we can aim for that perfection and strive for that standard. Because while we will never reach it, due to his mercy and grace, we can never fail. (See also Rom. 6:13,16,19; Eph. 4:24; Php. 1:11; 1 Tim. 6:11; Heb. 5:13)
- The third righteousness is the righteouseness that we are promised in heaven. When we die (or are raptured) and make it through the pearly gates, we will be perfect! This is something that is so hard to fathom sometimes, but it is the reason for everything God has done for us: to live with Him for all of eternity in holiness and righteousness, having experienced His love and grace. It returns us to the state in which we were created, except that we know what it means to be completely loved by God. Somehow, our bodies will be transformed into pure, sinless bodies, and our minds will be washed clean. Galatians 5:5 says, "For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope." (See also 2 Tim. 4:8; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev 19:8.) No matter what happens here on earth or how far along the line of perfection we make it, we are promised pure and perfect righteousness for all of eternity in heaven. Nothing motivates me more to press on and finish the race than knowing that, no matter what happens, I will soon be completely, 100% righteous. (Hallelujah! All praise and glory be to the one and only Savior and Redeemer. Amen.)