Thursday, December 29, 2016
Most people around me would say TriMet (Portland's bus system). Yes, that is my most quirky interest that I have spent more time on than any other. But when it all comes down to it, music has always been my first love. Listening to it, playing it, singing it, studying it. I love music.
The thing I love most about music is how it speaks to me. This is why I love Christian music; the message in the music matters so much to me, so I want to be hearing the best message. The interplay between the lyrics and music creates something in me that nothing else can.
It is clear to me that God created music, because it is so special and amazing. And it never fails that the song I happen to be hearing has something in it that I needed to hear right then and there. God speaks through music every day.
One thing I have always wanted to do with this blog is write devotionals based on the songs I am listening to at the time. This is one reason why I don't have ads on my blog page, so that I have no monetary gain from this and can therefore reference copyrighted material, giving full attribution to the author.
Lyrics are poetry. They are crafted not just to mean something powerful but also so that they are aesthetically pleasing.
It has been a rough week for me. I, the typical human being, have made some mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, but I expect good things from myself. So when I don't meet those expectations, I feel pretty low.
But I am reminded of a song that I have been listening to on the radio, the new single from Hawk Nelson called "Live Like You're Loved." The first line of the chorus says this:
"So live like you're loved. It's okay to act like you've been set free."
This is really encouraging. Except that, after making mistakes, I don't feel like I'm free. How can I act like it if I don't feel like I am?
What I love about this lyric is how blunt and unpoetic it is. In an industry that is based on alliteration and the right blend, here's this lyric that just jumps off the page awkwardly. It's in your face. It sounds more like a guy scolding his friend than a poem.
But I'm pretty sure they intended it that way.
Here's the truth you and I need to remember. God's grace has set us free. The blood of Jesus on the cross was more than enough to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and his resurrection is the ultimate victory over death. The gift of God is grace. It is a gift; I don't have to earn it. Nothing I can do will make me more or less worthy for salvation. It is a gift.
In John 8:36 (NIV), Jesus Himself says, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." We are free, now and forever.
Sometimes we need a good Gibbs slap to remind us that, even though we may stumble, we are free of the chains we were once in, and free of the eternal judgment for the mistakes we make.
Therefore, it's okay to act like we're free, even if we don't feel like it. Even if we don't feel worthy of it. It's not about whether we deserve it, it is what we are. We are free.
So act like it! Don't let sin convince you that you are not good enough for freedom. Walk in confidence, knowing that God loves you and sent His Son to die for you. You are free today, and that will never change.
Monday, December 26, 2016
Can you think of that one person in your life who seems to know the answer for everything? That one person you can go to (before Wikipedia) who will probably have the answer to your question, whatever it is?
For me, thats my dad. He seems to know something about everything, especially when it is related to engineering or science. He always finds ways to educate himself about these things, and I can trust that he will have the answer, and that it's probably the correct one as well, or close to it.
Think of the movie Elf. What did the publishing company do when they ran out of ideas? They brought in Miles Finch. He was reputed as someone who would certainly have the answer they needed.
Well, in my last post, I wrote about being one of those people who seems to have some sort of answer for everything theological. I know I don't have every answer, but at least I have enough knowledge to be able to offer something of value.
I also have almost a quarter century of experience on this earth. It's not a ton, I know, but I've surely been around the block enough times to have a handle on a lot of things. When life throws me problems, my theological knowledge and my life experience usually proves sufficient for me to know what to do, or at least know what the next step is that I should take.
But what baffles me to no end is that even though I have the answers, I am terrible at using them! Either I fail miserably at my attempt, or I just go the other way completely. There are issues that I have been dealing with for years, and to this day I haven't even started to even address them, even knowing what I should do.
This proves to me two things. First, God gave me a brain that works so I can come up with answers to my questions. Second, I am a fallen human and cannot succeed in my own capability.
I am thankful beyond words that God accepts me as I am, and that I don't have to know all the answers or get everything right all the time. I am also thankful that I can rely on God to have the absolutely correct answers and the faithfulness to never fail me even if I fail Him. And the Holy Spirit can also work with me to help me understand and be able to do what I should to in any given situation.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight."
No matter if I have the answers or not, or if I do what I should in response or not, I can rely on God to help me get where I need to go. That is such a great relief.
Thursday, December 22, 2016
The issue is that, when I was young, my very knowledgeable Christian mother taught me almost everything she knew about the depths of the Bible and theology. I was homeschooled by the same mother during junior high and high school, and have continually engaged in intense discussions about the details of scripture. In other words, I know a lot.
And I am not the only one. In the larger group discussions I have recently participated in, there is usually at least one other person who is sitting there with hand raised and the facial expression like they are going to explode, because they know the answer and aren't being called on since they answered the last three questions.
No one will come out and say anything to make fun of the small group theologian. But I still find myself feeling awkward and slightly embarrassed when I have the answer to almost every question, and even more so when my answer sounds so scholarly and confusing that the other people at the table look like I was telling them about quantum physics.
This shouldn't be. It seems like I should be ever confident and never uncomfortable about having a relatively deep understanding of Scripture.
The problem is that I don't want to be seen as a know-it-all.
For all my life, I have been tagged as the "smart one." "Oh, he knows so much!" people will exclaim. "He's so smart!"
Well, what they didn't see was how dense I really am when I come to using that knowledge. What I have in the ability to retain knowledge I lack in the ability to understand verbal instructions or use intuition to solve problems on the fly. I can go from being the sharpest tack to the dullest in a heartbeat.
What I found was that people stopped at my smarts and wouldn't look past them to see the reality of who I am. I am a person like everyone else, with my successes and failings, my skills and the areas in which I lack.
People don't tend to like know-it-alls. They can be intimidated by them, or they just find them annoying or condescending.
I don't want to be seen as a know-it-all. I want people to see me as a normal person as I really am.
Except in the areas of the Bible.
I am perfectly okay with having extensive knowledge about God's Word. I teach everybody all the time that we were meant to know God's Word better than any other knowledge we may possess. I use the opportunities when I have the answers to teach the others around me the truths of God and the testimonies of what He has done.
I may feel uncomfortable at times. But I am never ashamed.
Consider the selected words of the psalmist in Psalm 119 (NIV):
97 Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
There is nothing sweeter than the knowledge of God. Remember, God's Word isn't just a text; knowing God's word is one in the same with knowing God Himself. We should never tire of wanting to know more about God!
So, fellow "know-it-alls," speak confidently! Be bold with the words you speak, because you may speaking the words of life to a needing soul.
And to those who are just learning, keep pursuing God! You will never regret knowing God more. And you will also never run out of things to learn either. God is greater than our minds can ever fathom.
What a privilege it is to be able to know my Maker and Savior.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
If you have conversed with me, you may have found that I tend to dominate the conversation. I have to fight myself to let other people talk. It's not because I'm narcissistic, it's just because I have a lot to say!
Well, actually I am relatively me-centered, especially in conversation. If I like the topic, I dominate it. If I don't, I can be quite apathetic.
The better word is 'pathetic,' but I would rather keep my dignity somewhat intact.
Anyway, since I was the person in college who scoffed at 'minimum word counts' for papers, my blog posts have tended to look my like the Affordable Care Act text than a devotional. I always have a lot to say, and I think deeply on things, which produces even more to say. Therefore, I always feel like I have to pack at least three sermons' work in one post.
But on the other side of things, I have a short attention span. If anything is too long, I would rather spend my time elsewhere. I get bored easily; if it doesn't get to the point quickly enough, then it's like an absolute struggle to actually get through it. It becomes more of a chore than a joy.
Then something revolutionary happened. I started a devotional plan on the YouVersion Bible app.
These are short, to-the-point snippets of gospel truth that can help supplement one's own Bible reading. And they usually come in a bucket of three to ten days' worth of devotions. Suddenly, I realized that this is what I really need to write.
You see, wordy doesn't always mean better. Sometimes, simplicity and brevity is what matters. It helps emphasize the main point in a way that it actually impacts the reader's life.
The Bible itself is actually made up of smaller segments grouped into one large book. Jesus told parables, short but powerful stories. Paul wrote letters composed of smaller topical segments that went together to form the whole. In the Book of Proverbs, each verse stands alone. And the list goes on. God understands how the human mind works.
So I will take up the challenge of decreasing my wordiness. Yes, I like using flowery language. But please allow me the opportunity to share the random knowledge of God's Word with you in simple, easy to digest posts. It's like the $15 bag of M&M's I bought: it isn't hard to eat it when you have small portions every day.