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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lunchbreak Musings II

What the hell is wrong with me?

I don't mean to be profane, and honestly, I'm not.  Hell is definitely involved with what's wrong with me.  In that, I deserve hell because of what's wrong with me.  People tell me that I'm a good person, tell me that I'm a kind person and though I sometimes fool myself into believing it, I know the truth.

I am selfish. 
I am angry.
I am proud.
I am lustful.
I am greedy.
I've stopped going to church, except on special occasions.
I lie when I feel pressured.
I am lazy.
I "quench the Spirit".
I don't lead my family like I should.
I am too meek when I should be assertive.
I am too aggressive when I should be meek.
I depend on my own strength instead of depending on Christ.

I could go on and on, but I really want to focus on the last half of that last sentence.  Dependence on Christ.  My constant prayer, when I do pray (which is laughably seldom) is to be more Christ-like.  I dream of this man, this man who is bold in his faith and yet humble in himself.  This man, who cares more for others rather than himself.  A man who meets temptation with memorized Scripture.  A man who, like Paul, does not care about personal accomplishments and just rejoices that the gospel is preached.  A man who desires glory for God and not for himself.  Who loves and leads his wife as Christ leads, protects, and loves the Church.  A godly influence for other Christians and a passionate evangelist and disciple-maker.

I am aware that I will not be perfected or fully sanctified until I am gone.  I am aware that I often want these things for the wrong reasons.  I asked what was wrong with me at the beginning, but I am aware the answer is sin.  Sin that, though Christ has ensured it no longer binds me, still taints everything  this side of eternity.  But it is still frustrating.  I see myself in Paul's tortured plea at the end of Romans 7:  "Who will set me free from the body of this death?".  I am aware of the answer he immediately gives:  "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!".  But still, it is agonizing.

What does it mean to truly depend on Christ?  That isn't rhetorical, it's a real question.  I can understand why we must depend on Christ--I can appreciate that we are completely separate from God in sin and that there is no way that we can reconcile with Him (Rom 3:23,6:23, Eph 2:8-9).  I can understand that even our faith is not ours to brag about and that there is nothing that we can do to give us some claim over God (1Co 1:20-29).  Even the strongest and wisest among us are nothing in God's eyes.  So, unlike any other religion, Christianity calls on man to wholly depend on God for our salvation.  But how does one do that?

I often look at myself and realize that I'm depending on my own strength.  What does it feel like to depend on Christ to say, resist temptation, though?  I understand the principles behind resisting temptation (Scripture memory, discerning the lie behind the temptation's promise), but my resistance is utterly powerless.  I can call on Christ at my best time, but I truly depend on Christ to even call on His help.  By myself, I will allow myself the temptation.  One can say, I guess, that the inability to fully depend on Christ is another example of why our dependence on His sacrifice to be right with God is so important.

And maybe there is the thing of it.  I expect myself to be able to depend on Christ of my own will, which is of course the opposite.  Oh, how complicated this gets!  And how simple it really is at the same time.  So, I throw this question out there to anyone:  what does it feel like, what does it look like, what do you do when you depend on Christ in your day to day life?  Any thoughts?

Despite that list up there, I know that I have forgiveness in all of those things and grace beyond that to become an heir with Christ because of the small dependence that I do have in Him, which is His credit, not mine, because it surely didn't come from me.  Praise God for His mercy, for His grace, and for His patience with a prideful sinner like me.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Walking on Water

Walking on water and seeing how magnificent Christ truly is through an experience that only He can provide must have exceeded the very comprehension of Peter. In a moment of extreme obedience, Peter listened to the command of Christ to get out of the boat and place his feet on the water. Not to jump in because the water was great for a swim. Not to hang his feet over the edge of the boat as to dip his toes into the sea. Christ called this disciple to do the impossible and walk on water alongside the Creator of the Universe. Peter willingly accepted the command and followed it out onto the waves and amidst the wind. Maybe it was a minute or an hour, but Peter fell prey to the distraction of his surroundings and snapped out of the supernatural experience of walking on water with Christ to realizing he was a man walking on water. His fear and striving to control the situation caused him to sink.

I can relate to this story because I have walked on spiritual waters, though I don’t believe I would have had the faith to actually step out of the boat. What an incredible act of faith it was for Peter to step out of His comfort zone and do what he knew was humanly impossible. In a season of doubt and drought, I recently found myself taking strides to return to Christ. Metaphorically, I had recently stepped out of the boat where I sat protected by my own means, comfortable in my so-called safety from the world around me. While sitting in my man made boat amidst the God made universe, I found myself learning to trust Him more and respond to life in a way that would bring honor to Him rather than me. I found a peace to walk out among the storms of life, knowing that I could stand tall alongside Christ in it no matter what was surrounding me. But, much like Peter, the waves that I was just standing strong among distracted me from the focus on the foundation where I stood. It was not on Peter’s own strength that he walked on the water, nor had it been my own that allowed me to stand firm in life’s storm. It was the shift of focus onto God and away from me that allowed me to find strength and peace where I once found none. It was in Christ that I was able to stand firm. But sadly, as with Peter, in my humanity I failed. My attention was diverted from God and I began to sink. My arms were flailing and my head bobbing to find breathe in the middle of my selfish struggle for stability.

When I saw the waves I first responded by looking for a way to solve the problem. I looked to myself to find an answer and to gain control of a seemingly out of control situation. The only answer that I could find was how to sink faster. Only after taking uncountable gulps of the sea around me did I turn back to God to pull me out of my own despair. I say this all in hopes that you would find your strength in Christ. That when you think you have the answer, you would remember to go to Christ for the right one. Even when we begin to follow God’s commands, it is easy to become distracted and try to finish the act of obedience on our own power, especially those of us who tend to be control freaks. This weekend in particular we are remembering what Christ did on the cross for us by sacrificing Himself and conquering the grave as He rose from the dead so that we may have this relationship with Him. Because of what He willingly did for us, we have the ability, through Him and for Him, to walk on water.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Lunchbreak Musings Part I

This is something I wrote a loooong time ago during a lunch break at work, I just found it and thought to go ahead and post it up.  It'll be the first in a collection of "Lunchbreak Musings"--things I jotted down while I was on a break, or in and off moment at work:

"It seems funny driving around-realizing how little the things we consider important actually matter.  The guy tailgating me, the woman in front of me driving slowly with no headlights (I'd take someone speeding that I can see over someone slow that I can't any day!) are nothing in the context of eternal heaven and hell.  Take yourself out of the moment-people all around you, with their whole lives stretched out.  Some are going to hell--most, even--and some will God use in that way that He uses people--some grand, some small, all important.  Is tailgating a big deal?  People die and are born, lost are forever lost, saints are made and lives are changed and I am too wrapped up in my petty daily problems to see the larger picture.  Praise God that His patience is eternal for no human would have tolerated me this long.  I'm supposed to be not of this world and free of sin, yet I still feel like my old chains from when I was Satan's slave are holding me.  Slavery to sin is an inability to choose unselfishness, but we are now slaves to righteousness (Rom 6:18).  If we claim to know Him--we should keep His commandments (1Jn 2:3-4).  We should keep in mind the things of God--I am His servant (truthfully, His slave), bound to do all for His glory (1Co 10:31, 6:20).  Enough of failure--we are empowered to be victorious, and I will be.  Christians--we can shake the world for Christ once we wake up and keep our eyes on the throne--we are servants of God--slaves to His will.  There is a great peace and joy and honor in that position--let's be loyal ambassador's and show a new life to a world that thinks 'hypocrisy' when they hear 'Christian'."  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Patience of God

I stared at the lawn mower, breathing heavily.  A single bead of sweat rolled down my face and in my current state of frustration even the gentle tickle across my cheek drove me to new levels of fury.  I picked up the small reel mower over my head and paused, muscles tensed, my face the pure picture of barbarian anger that is entirely unique to modern man’s experience with difficult technology.
Pictured: Me, with barbarian fury.
I was going to make this mower pay dearly for what it had done to me.

With a (imaginary) battle cry, I hurled the mower across the yard, picturing vividly a scene of masochistic dominance over the (inanimate object) enemy that had dared to defy me.  I asserted my will and reestablished my place as the master of my household.  Let my other tools see my fury and shrink back in fear.
"Save us from his righteous wrath!!!"
Let me explain why I was angry.  My reel mower is a piece of crap.  I bought it because it was cheap and I have a tiny yard, so I figured a gas mower was unnecessary.  What I found, though, is that the reel mower is regularly foiled by such obstacles as rocks, stumps, large sticks, small sticks, twigs, particularly crunchy leaves, dandelions, other weeds, and grass.  At some point, I ran out of patience.

The lawn mower survived its two foot flight, fortunately, because I still needed it.  Granted, it deserved its fate.  But all humanity is protected from a fate we deserve because of the greatest patience the world has ever seen.  I’ll pause for a moment to let you admire that segue.

Pictured: You, admiring.
God’s patience is something that astounds me whenever I think about it.

Now, my first thought when thinking about God’s patience is that it can’t be quite the same as human patience.  After all, one key element of human patience is being at peace with the passage of time.  Time is precious to us because—at least from our earthly human perspective—we only have a limited supply of it.  It is the ultimate limited resource and we value it highly.  Like many of the things that change when we become children of God, patience starts with recognizing that this life is not all there is.  Once we begin thinking and living in the context of eternity our habits should start to change and patience should follow. 

Because you’re reading my blog, though, studies indicate that you are above average in intelligence and also incredibly handsome (or beautiful).  Because of this superior intelligence (I would like to reiterate that this is very common among people who follow this blog—I’m not saying reading my blog causes great intelligence, but you never know . . . .) you may realize that God is not bound by the confines of time and has omniscience.  That means that patience isn’t quite the same thing to God as it is to humans.

The words used in the Bible to convey patience convey a sense of “long-suffering”, of being slow to anger.  You can see this connotation in verses like 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Peter 3:20, Romans 2:4, Romans 9:22.  What does an infinite God have to be patient about?

Unfortunately, the answer is humans.  We have rebelled against God for the entire existence of our species, save for a short precious time at the very beginning.  From the beginning, God promised that the result of rebellion is death.  But He remained patient, again and again, and instead of destroying us like He was in the right to do, He crafted a beautiful salvation to free us from the worst consequence of our rebellion.  Keep in mind, we weren’t just breaking some rules.  Every time we sin, we are effectively telling God that we would rather die than live eternally with Him.  Humans have spit in His face, both literally and figuratively, and even Christians do it on a regular basis.  Think for a moment how long it’s been since you last rejected God.  Odds are, it hasn’t been that long when you consider that sin is rejection. 

Patience is a characteristic of love (1 Corinthians 13:4) and like no human can love like God, no human can have patience like God.  No human can withstand constant rejection and active hostility for their entire lives with such great patience.  Despite our constant rejection and our constant hostility, though, what did God do when He came to earth?  He looked over the city that was about to do physically what they had done in spirit for thousands of years cried.  He cried for the people who had rejected Him and would crucify Him.  I can’t help but come very close to the same thinking of the scene.

I'll just leave this here.
Take a moment and reflect on God’s patience and long-suffering, and think about what in your life is testing that patience.  Though if you are a Christian you cannot exhaust either the love or patience of God, does it befit us as adopted children of God to continue to test it?  Realistically, we are a work in progress until the day we die (Phillipians 1:6), but that doesn’t mean that we cannot strive to fulfill our purpose as servants, slaves, and indeed children of God. 

Starting with being more loving towards my lawn mower.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Beginning With The Gospel

In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth.  he created man and woman and a perfect world for them to care for and have dominion over.  They walked with God Himself, learned about the universe from the One who created it.  Yet they decided to question God--essentially rejecting His authority and therefore separating themselves from Him.  It wasn't that they ate an apple--they chose knowingly to rebel against God.  This was the first sin, that is, an act of rebellion against God.  The result of that was exactly was exactly what Adam and Eve had been warned.  Death entered into the world.

Maybe Adam and Eve didn't understand what death was because they had never seen it happen before.  What were their thoughts when they saw the first thing die in front of them to provide them with clothing?  With that image and the knowledge that the entire creation--the creation that was their job to oversee--was doomed to the same, it must have been heart-wrenching.  Worse, they were cut off from the presence of God.  They, like all of their descendants, were created to be with God and the emotional strain of their purpose and meaning being torn away from them must have been brutal.  Since the first two humans first tried so long ago, mankind has been trying and failing to create its own purpose and meaning to replace what it lost.

God cannot allow anyone who has rebelled against Him to join Him.  He prescribed the punishment as eternal death long ago and He must keep His word, because He is perfect.  God did not respond to mankind's rebellion the way a human would, though.  He responded in perfect love.

Becoming a man Himself, He took the full punishment of mankind's rebellion on Himself.  As a man He could pay and as God His death was enough to pay for everyone.  With Jesus dying on the cross, our debt to God was paid.  With His resurrection, our meaning and purpose was restored.  We can join Him.

See, a lot of people don't see any need for God.  This is especially true in countries like America, where we are very secure financially and physically compared to much of the world.  We think that we can live by the power of our own strength.  And that is true, to an extent, but consider this:

I mentioned that God is holy and nothing impure or anything that has rebelled can join Him.  Now, God judges us by our intentions, our attitudes, our internal thoughts more than by our external actions.  The right deed for the wrong reasons is reprehensible.  It also carries the same punishment because all sin, big and small, is a symptom of the larger sin of rejecting God's rule.  This means lying, lust, jealousy, dishonest, anxiety, unkindness, and anything else short of perfect love and consideration for others.  That's basically what being holy is--perfect love and consideration for one another, caring more for each other than yourself.  None of us can meet that standard, so none of us can join God.  We cannot make up that deficiency once we have rebelled.  Because we've rejected God we are forever alienated from God unless He steps in and does  something about it Himself, of His own accord.  And that is where Jesus comes in.

If we believe that Jesus died and was resurrected for the payment of our own sins and seek to rejoin God through that payment, God considers our debt paid by that death.  This kind of belief, if honest, does involve a drastic change in attitude.  The Bible says that we are set aside by God to become His children, heirs to God's kingdom.  This is the good news of the Gospel.  This is the amazing love that Christians talk about--that God takes people who have openly defied Him and does immense work to bring them back to Him despite their indifference and open hostility.  If you are not a Christian, this is the amazing work of God that you should hear.  If you are a Christian, this is the amazing work of God that should bring back memories of who you were and what you've become and remind you of what He has done.  We cannot bring any message greater than the Gospel; we cannot write a greater story than this.