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February 20, 2013

Joshua 1:8

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

My car is not running like it used to.  It squeaks, it vibrates, and the gas pedal has started to stick in the cold.  Thankfully I know someone at my church who works on cars.  So as I talked to him, and the possibility of getting it looked at he said something to me that stuck with me.  “Ninety-five percent of the cars I work on have the same problem.  They’ve never been taken in for a tune-up.”

If I had to be honest, that would be me.  I’ve never taken the car in for a tune-up.  Sure I’ve had the oil changed on a regular basis.  But that’s about it.  And now it shows in my car.  It hasn’t received the sort of maintenance it needed.  So it squeaks, and vibrates, and then there’s that gas pedal.  Stuck when I need it to go.

Have you felt that way about your Christian walk?  As though it were filled with noise, as though the whole thing were shaking, and then there’s just that feeling of being stuck.  I find few things worse than feeling completely and totally stuck.  Maybe it’s past time for maintenance.  Maybe it’s time for a tune-up.

When you take your car in, a few things are checked for.  How are the fluids?  Are the tires aligned?  Are the tires good?  How are the air filters, what about the spark plugs?

We should do that with our daily Christian life.  How is our prayer life?  Have we spent time around like minded believers?  Have we been reading from the word of God?  The Book of Joshua lays out some pretty simple yet good advice.  Meditate on His word.  So you will know what it says to do in life.  Then you can do it.  And in doing so, in following the word of God, your life will be ultimately better.  It couldn’t be simpler, yet it’s advice we usually ignore.

This extends to all portions of our walk with God.  The more we maintain it the better it will be.

I’ve needed a spiritual tune-up for awhile now.  Thankfully the one difference between a spiritual tune-up and a car tune-up is this: if you wait too long for a car tune-up you may do irreparable damage.  But it is never ever too late to seek out a tune-up from God.

 

October 21, 2011

What else does Paul advise Timothy on?   Well the thing that catches my eye?  Paul gives an entire sermon on what leaders should be like.  Why?  Because leadership is important.  If you want to grow in your present and future, if you want to become the things God would have you be, then you must do one incredibly important thing that I am thankful to say I think all of us here today have done.  Find a fantastic church, with a fantastic Pastor.

Do you really want to know how to know if you have found a good church?  I’ll tell you the secret. You only have to look two places.  First, you have to look at the Pastor, or the leadership in general.  If the guy with the microphone is preaching and you know that those are the words of God, that he or she is not preaching from his or her own wisdom, or his or her own vanity, but rather out of the good book, and with the passion, and fire, and caring love of God, then you have half of the equation.  The second place you need to look is the congregation.  A good church breeds good Christians.  But even moreso, a good church breeds growing Christians.  Being a Christian is easy.  Being a good Christian is harder.  But being a growing Christian who comes closer to the image of Christ each day in life, that right there is incredibly difficult.  And it takes a good church, with a good leader, who follows the guidance and path of our good God to have that result.  If you look around and you can say that no one has changed in the past two years, then I say get out!  But if you look around at your church, and you see ministers growing.  People volunteering.  Teens dedicating themselves.  The word being spread.  Then you know it is a good church. 

But you know.  Let’s get back to Saul.  I think we know the story of Saul.  He witnessed the stoning of Stephen.  And he approved.  But he didn’t just stop there.  He proceeding to persecute and kill many Christians. He did things that were horrible.  And yet he would someday become Paul.  I still find myself wondering if it ever haunted him.  If he ever had that moment.  I think we all have that moment.  Do you know what it really is?  It’s the devil.  And I know, it’s often said the devil gets blamed for all kinds of things that he doesn’t really do.  But call it the devil, or a demon, or the negavox voices that bring you down.  But I’m going to call it the devil.  Because you know what he will do?  He watches you.  He watched when you were a sinner.  Figured out exactly which chains you liked to wear as a sinner.  Then watched Jesus free you.  Remove those chains.  Toss them to the side.  Then as you went away happy, having forgotten for the moment about those chains, he picked them up.  And here’s what the devil will do.  He’ll softly.  Quietly.  Sneak up behind you.  And rattle those chains.  Not loudly.  Just loud enough.  And he’ll say, “Remember these?  You weren’t perfect.  Not like that Jesus fellow.  These were your chains?  You can’t really escape them.  Sooner or later, sooner THAN later, you’ll wear them again.”  And he’ll just follow you around.  Softly rattling those chains.  Reminding you.  The devil is patient.  And he’s willing to keep at it until you willingly put those chains on.  Without a fight.  Without him having to force you too. You will have bought into the lie.  And that’s the truth. It’s a lie.

This is one of my passions. The lie of the chain. If you get anything at all out of these posts today. I want it to be the title. Your name doesn’t have to stay Saul either. Paul left behind that life. And he stayed Paul. You can too. This is my passion. If you’ve been hearing those chains rattling. If you’ve been hearing that whisper in your ear. “It’s only a matter of time..” If you’ve already given into that lie. I want to pray for you. Maybe you’re wearing the chains. Maybe you didn’t realize that you’re wearing the chains. Maybe you’re an inch from wearing that chain. It’s ok. I’ve put those chains back on before too. But it’s a lie. You DON’T have to wear them If you doubt me I want you to remember this truth and finish this sentence for me. Who the Son sets free… is free indeed. There is a  song by Lifehouse called Everything. It has a pleading in it. That’s why I like it. You’ll hear the words, “You’re all I want. You’re all I need. You’re everything. Everything.” You can take those words too ways. That could be God, pleading for you to turn back to Him. They could be the words we SHOULD be saying to Him. But it’s the final words that always hit me the hardest. They are, “Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?” This, to me, is freedom. Freedom from our chains. Freedom from our past. Freedom from our sin and sinful nature. Freedom from the things that keep us apart from God. And let me tell you the answer to that question. It. Can’t. Be. I’m going to open this altar now. If you have chains today. If you have needs today. If you are even hearing the chains rattle today. Tell me. And let’s go to God together. And I promise by the time he’s through, those chains will be gone.

October 13, 2011

And Saul approved of their killing of him. Acts 8:1.

That has to be one of the single darkest verses that ever opens a book of the bible. And Saul approved of their killing of him. Imagine if that were Saul’s entire story. His one verse. Many people get little screen time, as it were, in the bible. Imagine if this were the beginning and the end of Saul’s tale. It would be sad and dark wouldn’t it? Acts 8 opens up on just a whammy of a line. And to understand it we have to rewind a bit I think. Imagine if this was the very first verse you ever read. It would just smack you out of nowhere wouldn’t it? You’d be left wondering, “Who’s Saul? Who’s this him? Why was he killed? Why did this Saul guy approve?”

To get those answers, you have to rewind of course. I think most of us have been around long enough to be able to easily answer these questions. Who’s him? Him is a man named Stephen. We don’t know a great deal about him. But we know this much. He was a good man, God was with him, and he spoke with great wisdom. He was a man so lost in God he was willing to die for his faith. Why was he killed? Because he preached the truth. Who was Saul? He was a pharisee who didn’t like what Stephen had to say. That probably answers why he approved.

But I think we all know who Saul really is too. He’s Paul. The author of roughly half the new Testament. Paul did some really stupid and terrible things once. But God got a hold of him, changed him, and he ending up leading a much better life than what he started. But I sometimes wonder if what he did haunted him. It must have in the beginning. To escape it in a way, to distance himself from it, he changed his name. From Saul, to Paul. And that’s the title of my sermon today. Your name doesn’t have to be Saul either.

I think we all go through that sometimes. We look back on all failings. Our former lives. Our used to bes. All the things that, now knowing better, we wish we could forget forever. But can’t. Our Saul moments as it were. I find myself torn in this all the time. Going back and forth between reminding myself that the Lord has forgotten and so should I. But also reminding myself that my testimony is important. If there is two things we should get out of our past misdeeds, it’s this.

One: Our past is important. It’s incredibly important. In witnessing, in telling the truth of God, in explaining all that He is. Do you know, sometimes I wish we still did fiery hell sermons? Not all the times. But sometimes I do. Because here is the truth. You can’t have the grace of God without the fall of man. And every time we gloss over sin. Every time we downplay wrongdoing. Every time we pretend that hell isn’t really all that bad a place to be, we do a giant disservice to God. We harm the body of Christ, in my opinion. Because every time we downplay the horrible thing that we once were, we diminish the triumph that is God’s freedom. We shrink the grand thing he did for us. If Christ died for our sin, but we end up trying to be politically correct and say sin isn’t that all important then we are essentially saying that Christ died for something that just isn’t that important. And I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t taste good. Our past is important. Because it IS our past that God freed us from. He did hear us. When we prayed, as the David did in Psalm 34 when he cried,

“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
6 In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
he saved me from all my troubles.
7 For the angel of the Lord is a guard;
he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

If you’ve never tasted something really bitter, can you really truly understand what it is to taste something sweet? We talk of freedom, but if you want the best definition of freedom find a man who’s just been let out of jail.

The second thing we should learn from our Saul moments is that our past is NOT important.

I know. I know. You’re all out there saying, “Uh Canterrain… did you forget your first point already?” No, No I didn’t. And yes, I realize that it sounds contradictory. But let me clarify. Our past is important. Just not THAT important. We should acknowledge the things that God has done in our lives and the transformations that He has led us through. But we shouldn’t get lost in despair of what we were so much so that we forget what we are today. Imagine for a moment if you will how differently Acts would be if Peter forever said, “I can’t stand up and speak. I’m the one who denied Christ.” Imagine if the disciples besides John dwelt on the fact that when push came to shove, they shoved off, ran off, and let Jesus die without them. It’s ok to recognize our past for what it was. But we can’t let it rule our present.

How do we do that though? How do we not let our past overshadow our present and future? I think Paul gives us good advice, as he was advising Timothy. In fact, you should notice three things that Paul advises Timothy to do to be a good leader. I think these bits of advice actually apply to more than just leadership.

The first is found in 1 Timothy 19.

“Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscious clear.”

This is a two parter! But I think the first naturally leads to the second. Cling to your faith in Christ! You know, most of the time it seems like Paul is teaching advanced Christionomics 404, now with greater insights into the divine understanding of theologic mysteries. This right here. Is simultaneously the most straight forward instruction Paul has ever written, and also the hardest. Cling to your faith in Christ! Well everyone knows what that means. Hold fast to Jesus! Don’t let your eyes stray from Him! Why that’s easy. Just ask Peter. Oh wait. Yeah. Cling to your faith in Jesus. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. Because it seems like everytime you really decide to do it, that’s when the waves get really choppy. But if you do. If you set your sights on Jesus and try your best to win that staring contest, you’ll maintain a clear conscious. It’s really hard to stray from God while looking at God.

Well what else does Paul tell Timothy?

How about 1 Timothy 2.

“1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 5 For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.”

I like this advice. You know why? Because I think it fits right in with human nature. No really. In fact it takes one of our worst traits and turns it to good. The trait of gossip! We humans are gossipy. We are! The mall I work in is being purchased by new owners. You know, I actually know what they look like? In fact, I knew before they ever stepped foot in the mall. Other mall employees showed me. I also know when security arrests someone for fighting, when a store closes too early, and when someone has been fired from one of the other stores in the mall. The worst part about knowing all this? I don’t actually care. But that doesn’t stop people from telling me, or telling my employees. We humans love to focus on all things about other people. It takes our minds off of all our problems, I think. So why not use that to good? If we have to know about other people, then we should pray for them. Ask God to intercede on their behalf. If we really must poke into the lives of all our politicians, then let’s pray for them too! I don’t know about you, but I’d love to have a peaceful and quiet lives free from political bickering. And if makes God happy, what more reason do I need?

Now, a quick clarification. I don’t want anyone going to their Pastor after reading this and saying, “Some guy online just give us all permission to gossip to our hearts content about all the juicy stuff that happens at!” No I didn’t. So you can stop right there in your thoughts about how you can’t wait to tell so and so that this and that happened. I’m personally a believer that we have enough terrible drama on daytime tv. We don’t need it in the Church. What I am saying, of course, is that we can use that terrible urge for good! Instead of telling everyone what you’ve heard about this and that you could be praying about what you heard. And for whom you heard it from. I’m convinced that if I spent less time talking and more time praying, I’d spend less time being insecure about myself and more time being secure in my faith!

On Monday, I’ll continue with part 2 of this topic. 

May 24, 2011

This message is dedicated to two dear friends. They know who they are and why.

Sometimes. Sometimes, life is so hard. Sometimes we are faced with decisions and events that leave us asking “why?”.

Why did this happen? Why am I dealing with this? Why isn’t this easier? Why don’t I know what to do? Why isn’t God speaking clearly to me?

Sometimes these are things in our control and sometimes they are just beyond our control.
For these days, these hours, these minutes I turn you towards James 1:2,3.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

Sometimes we pray for guidance and hear nothing. And it can be tempting, oh so tempting to ask “where are you!?”

This is human. Even Jesus asked “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

I admit that His words used to bother me. How could the Messiah despair? How could He ask such a thing? I’m not sure I will ever fully understand. But I know this. When we despair we isolate ourselves. We hide from and deny the truth.

We are never alone. He will never abandon us. Even when we don’t feel His presence.

And in the bad times, the worst of times, when we lean on Him our faith will grow. It will be perfected, strengthened.

I stand on these promises.

That while no evil ever comes from God, He will “cause everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8 )

That “…the temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (1 Cor. 10:13)

And most of all “… I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Hard times are unavoidable, decisions sometimes paralyzing but these days strengthen us. The strongest sword first faced the fire and the hammer.

Most of all know, you are not alone.

And that you never will be.

 

 

April 1, 2011

It doesn’t take long to find proof. Bad things happen to people. Look in the news and it’s everywhere. Tsunamis, earthquakes, theft, cheating, lying, disaster both natural and man-made are everywhere to be found. Look in the Bible and you can find that same list. Bad things happen. To good people. To bad people. And why? Why does it have to happen? Why does it happen?

I serve an all knowing, all powerful God who could instantly sweep away all the disasters away. Large or small, natural or not, they would be nothing to Him if He so chose.

Why does God let bad things happen if He so loves the world? Why is slavery found in the Bible? Why do some people get away with the worst of atrocities? Why are innocent people punished for things they didn’t do?

I’ve been speaking with a friend for a few hours this night. He often has described himself as an atheist. In this conversation he described himself more along the lines of seeking, of wanting to believe, but having trouble. Being skeptical. Having questions. I would describe him as a good man, and a man with the makings of an excellent Christian.

The truth is, I don’t have a perfect answer for the hard questions. I can’t write away the bad of the world and justify it so it is good. I may never have those answers. There may not even be answers in this life to those questions.

Some might say that not having an answer to these hard questions is a bad thing. Some might even say that even having these questions at all is a bad thing. If you have faith then there’s no need to question, to doubt, to wonder. Faith means not doubting doesn’t it?

No. Not really. Faith overcomes doubt. But you can’t overcome something that isn’t there. The Bible often speaks of the race. And the thing about the race is, it is still happening. It isn’t finished. The Bible has little to tell about what comes after the finish line. And much to say about the race itself. And there is no such thing as a race without struggle.

To struggle is to be human. To question is to be human. And to choose is to be human. I know that God could prevent us from doing any bad thing. But that would be preventing us from choosing. It would be removing the struggle from our lives. And that would be the same as making us not human at all.

Bad things happen. And hard questions are raised. But sometimes the point of life isn’t having the answers, but seeking them. My good friend has asked me many questions that have challenged my faith. And my faith has grown stronger from those challenges. Sometimes this good friend who is atheist does more to strengthen my relationship with God than any pastor, any evangelist, or even any book.

My friend tells me he’s earnestly seeking the truth of God. He wants to know. Need to know. That means asking the hard questions. And without yet being a Christian, I think this makes him a better Christian than I’ve ever been. I can’t wait for the day when he tells me that the final crucial step has been taken.

And so I wonder, how have the hard questions challenged you? And have they helped your faith grow? Or stifled it? What hard questions do you really struggle with and why?

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March 16, 2011

Over at Wesdraws, Wes posed a few very interesting questions in his latest post.

He asked:

“Do you think there is a difference between a “believer” and a “disciple”?

If so, what differentiates the two?

Which is more important?”

I read through the answers, all very well stated and clearly explained. But I found myself disagreeing with them to a small extent.

What most commenters said was basically, “Yes, there is a difference. (Although maybe there shouldn’t be) Believing is something anyone can do, but discipleship is growing/learning/etc. therefore it is better.”

But it’s not. Not necessarily. I’d like to take a look at a few verses of the Bible before getting into more of my answer. Because I do believe there is a difference between a disciple and a believer.

John 6:

53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”
59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
60 Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”
61 Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? 63 The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) 65Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.”
66 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.

Now I want to point out something here. There are many people that Jesus is talking to. But a few of them are actually disciples. They are referred to specifically as that. In fact, the text goes so far as to say he said to THEM (the disciples).

A disciple is someone who is learning. Whether it be teaching, methods, philosophy, or something else. They are a learner. These people followed after Jesus because he had something interesting to say, something they may not have heard before, and they wanted to learn from Him.

But what Jesus decided to say and teach that day was very difficult to understand and even more difficult to accept. Many of the disciples did not understand. But even more than that, the text tells us they did not BELIEVE Jesus’ words. So they left him. Turned away from him.

My point today is that discipleship is great. It’s important. Very important. Some of the commenters at wesdraws pointed out Paul’s writing that mentions even demons believe in Jesus. That we strive for more.

But to the opposite point, anyone can learn. Anyone can listen. But without belief, and therefore application of that belief, you can walk away from Jesus having truly gained nothing.

Many people stood before Jesus one day and heard his words. They were disciples of Christ But they walked away from him because in the end they weren’t believers of Christ. How much did their learning do?

So to answer Wes’ questions:

There is a difference between a believer and a disciple.

A disciple is someone who strives to learn from another.
A believer is someone who puts their faith in another.

But neither is more important than the other.

In fact, each is broken without the other.

A believer who does not learn and grow is stagnant.
A learner who does not believe is lost.

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March 14, 2011

This is a short article I think, one born from a conversation I was having earlier.

You see, they were talking of some people out there who claim the Christian name but don’t live up to it. These people apparently say the current tragedy in Japan is some sort of divine punishment from God. And this friend were talking about how bad this makes Christians look to others.

And I agree in principle. But in loudly complaining about these people in many ways my friend only served to draw more attention to them. And they clearly don’t deserve it.

The problem for my friend is they know people who only see the ugly side of Christianity.

But it’s good to know these sorts of people. In fact, that brings me to the main point of this post. You see, I think every Christian should have at least one (if not many) atheist friend(s).

I had a co-worker at one point who was atheist. I still remember the first day it really came out. That he was absolutely completely convinced that there is no God. And that I was absolutely convinced there is. The best description for this occasion would be two cats meeting for the very first time. Our backs arched, we circled, each ready to claw the other, waiting to see who would strike first.

I don’t remember who struck first, but I do remember there was a lot of back and forth for nearly an hour.

But the first day wasn’t our best day for argument and debate. It was merely a beginning. Because we were co-workers and we did have to speak to each other often. So we had to see each other as more than just that Atheist/Christian guy. We saw our strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. And we found we had many things in common. In fact, outside of our spiritual beliefs we were more alike than unalike.

My co-worker challenged me everyday. On what I believed, why I believed, how I believed. And I too challenged him. He sometimes told me that I was the first real Christian he had ever met. This was both heart-warming and heart-breaking. After all he had been in church as a younger man. For me to be the first is a sad fact.

And while I had known that Atheists can be and are good people, there is always the prejudice… the temptation to believe that they aren’t really. That they’re different from Christians somehow. Less moral.

And while it was true that my co-worker and I disagreed on certain points of morality I can say with a strong confidence that he is a good good man. One I am glad to call friend.

We are no longer co-workers, and we don’t communicate as much as we did before. And I can’t say that he became a Christian because of me. But I think I can say he knows more of what a real Christian is because of what God did in my life and in his.

And while he could never convince me that God isn’t real, he taught me many things through his actions and words. He challenged me to look at my spirituality, my beliefs, in new ways that I might never have done on my own.

Every Christian should have at least one Atheist friend. And the other way around too. Through such relationships we can challenge our preconceptions. And our faith can grow.

July 6, 2010

This will be a multitopic letter, with sidebars and asides and so on, I can feel it now.

Evangelism has been on my heart alot lately. I’ve been hit with it in classes, challenged on it in my worklife, and even (albeit without truly meaning to) had it thrown my way in my online dealings.

Evangelism is a really sticky topic in America. You will often hear anymore that “faith should be a personal thing, kept to one’s self.”

It saddens me that this is said. It saddens me even more that Christians are ACTUALLY buying into it. They shouldn’t. It’s a lie.

The ability to evangelize, to preach, to tell others of your belief, no matter what that belief is, is one of the most important fundamental rights any American has and should exercise. (Side note, the ability to walk away from those doing said evangelism is equally important, respect is always to be maintained and if someone wants to leave and not hear anymore, they should be allowed to do so ALWAYS.)

Telling someone about the truth of Jesus Christ is one of the most important things any Christian can ever do. Even if it’s awkward. Even if it’s unsuccessful. Even if it doesn’t seem to amount to anything. (If often does and we don’t know it).

But why?

Because of what we believe.

Recently, while speaking with others online, I was asked innocent questions. How were my classes towards accreditation as a minister coming along, and what denomination would I be preaching for? The answer to the second led to another question. Does that denomination preach fire and brimstone sermons?

My answer was simply that we do not regularly preach about Hell (we focus more on the love of Jesus), but if I were asked straight out if I believe a non-believer who does not hold Jesus as a personal savior will go to hell when they die I would answer yes.

That answer offended someone. Someone I do consider a good person, and would gladly call a friend.

Am I sorry for the offense? Yes. Am I sorry for my answer? No.

Because I would rather risk offense to even a good friend, then commit the greater offense of lying. Of sanitizing the truth. Of trying to create some pseudo “more friendly” religion in the hope to draw other people in with that deception. That to me is more offensive, any day of the week.

Do not misunderstand me. My denomination and I very much, believe that Christianity is a religion of love. Not hate. And it is far too often being used as a means of hate. And THAT is offensive too. Hating others is not the example Jesus set at all. He spent his time with sinners. Loving those sinners. He told them the truth. That sin is bad, what the consequences of sin are, but he always showed love. He never spoke in hatefulness to those sinners. And the church as a whole needs to start setting THAT example, instead of the one we are all too often known for.

I believe the vast majority of Christians actually fall in line with that. Unfortunately a very loud minority has set a bad image for us. And it’s our fault. Because we aren’t out there, being just as loud, only in a good way. It should come to no surprise that when the world sees only one set of Christians acting in a very non-Christian manner, it has come to believe that all Christians are like this.

It’s too easy to sanitize Christianity. But that’s the worse thing we can do. Because then all we accomplish is someone joining under false pretenses and leaving disillusioned. I encourage people to be honest in what they believe, but love at the same time. It is possible. If you aren’t sure how, just read about Jesus. He was the very model of truthful loving. Watch a parent. Parents will, in all lovingness, tell their child they are making a mistake. They will do it gingerly, tenderly, but with the proper sense of admonishment. This is less of a contradiction that we make it out to be.

There is a lot of WRONG teaching on what Hell is. And that’s the only reason I believe the topic of Hell needs to be addressed in church. A reeducation. It isn’t a threat, but it is a truth. The point of Hell is too often misunderstood. The reason for it completely lost.

But at the end of the day, if you are a Christian, you must decide something. Do I believe in Hell or not? Do I believe in everlasting life or not? If I do, how important is it that I tell others of Jesus? And I have found a worthy answer to that second question. Given by an atheist. Penn Gillette, of Penn and Teller.

There’s something that truly struck me about Penn’s words too. He kept saying, “He was a good man.” And it hit me so hard the first time I saw this. It has been so long since I have heard the phrase, “He was a good Christian man.” You don’t hear that anymore. And some would believe that’s because Christianity isn’t synonymous with good. But it should be.

I believe you don’t hear that anymore for another reason. The good Christians are keeping to themselves. This allows a minority to represent the majority to the world. We have held back too long, and allowed an image to encompass us.

Evangelism is important. It’s the most important thing you will ever do. Because it can change a person’s life. Even if you don’t see them come to salvation. The good book tells us (in the new Canterrain paraphrase version), that some plant the seeds, some water them, some harvest that which grew, but God gets the glory. Sometimes your ‘failure’ in evangelism isn’t a failure at all. But the seeds that were needed so someone else could do the harvesting.

And evangelism is like any other skill in life. The more you do it, the better you will get. The less you do it, the worse you will get.

From personal experience I have found that my closest times with God have been where I was speaking about God, for God, because of God.

Evangelism has another side effect that is all too important. It will challenge your faith, and grow it. Strengthen it like the fires do to a sword.

I encourage you, if you believe… TELL. It’s the most important thing you will ever do.

January 27, 2010

I sometimes get asked, “If God didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat the apple, why did He make it so easy to get?”

The question revolves around the idea that God could have just as easily put the tree on top of a mountain, or made it impossible to reach in some way.

The problem is the question misses the entire point of what God really wanted.  What God wants.

God built mankind with the express intent of giving them freewill.  The ability to choose.  It’s one of the things that separates us from everything else in the universe.  Angels know God exists.  And have no choice but to worship Him.  The animals, the earth, even the very rocks would call out in praise of Him if no man or woman did.  (Jesus briefly touches on that fact in Luke 19)

But God wanted something more.  He wanted man to be able to make a choice.  To believe Him.  Or not.  To worship Him.  Or not.

We all know to a degree why He’d want something like that.  If someone does something nice for you because they have to, or because they have no choice but to, it doesn’t mean anywhere near as much as when someone does something nice because they want to, they choose to.  Does it?

Angels cry out in worship every moment to God.  But a single moment of Man’s worship moves Him far more.

God wanted to build a creature that would choose to believe Him.  Believe in Him.  Worship Him.  The one downside to that is, God would have to build a creature that could choose not to believe Him.  Or believe in Him.  Or worship Him.

And so the very first choice came with a fruit.  Mankind was told not to eat it, or else there would be dire consequences.  A serpent said to eat it, and that there would not be any such dire consequences.

Now I have to ask you, my reader, if the fruit had been impossible to get would it really have been a choice?

Let me ask this way.  Imagine you enter a restaurant.  You are greeted warmly by your server and they ask what you would like to drink.  You naturally inquire as to the choices.  Imagine the server told you, “We have water.  And we have soda.  But the only way to get the soda is to travel to Mount Everest, ascend it, and claim it yourself.”

Is soda really a choice in that situation?  No, no it is not.

For something to be an actual choice, one option must be as relatively as easy to choose as the other.

If God had made the fruit impossible to obtain, He would have chosen for Mankind.  Instead of allowing Mankind the choice.

May I address something else here?  Choice also involves consequence.  And taking responsibility for our choices.  This is the very second mistake Mankind made.
First Mankind chose to believe the serpent over God.  Then Mankind chose not to take responsibility for that choice.

Eve blamed the serpent, saying “The serpent deceived me and I ate it.”

Adam blamed both Even AND God!  He said, “The woman YOU put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (emphasis mine)

Notice first he points out that Eve gave him the fruit, then he points out that God was the one who made Eve in the first place.  Therefore it’s “His fault.”

That’s a pretty big mistake to make.  Because let’s face it.  Eve chose to believe the serpent.  Adam chose to believe Eve.  They were told by God there would be dire consequences.  And they chose to believe otherwise.

And do you know something else?  The very question this topic asks makes the same mistake.  It tries to put the blame on God.  “Well if God had put the fruit out of reach, then Adam and Eve couldn’t have eaten it.”

But the problem isn’t what God could have done.  The problem is what mankind should have done.

Do you know something else?  This very topic also proves just how much God loves mankind.  He could have made it impossible to choose to eat the fruit.  But He would rather be able to lose us, not have our worship, have the outcome of us choosing something other than Him… than force us to stay in His presence, and worship Him.

That’s one of the things that seem to distinguish God from so many stories of gods and goddesses.  Often those gods and goddess demand worship.  God really could.  But all He does is ask and hope and extend His arms waiting.

But God is a parent, in so many ways.  We let our children choose.  But when they choose unwisely, such as misbehaving, we also hold them accountable for those decisions.

So that’s what it boils down to.  Yes.  God didn’t want Adam and Eve to choose to eat the fruit.  But what He wanted more was for Adam and Eve to be able to choose at all.

Without free will we are no different than cows.  Existing without any real choice.  Unable to grow, to succeed, to triumph.  But with free will we can do all that and more.  At the small cost that we also can and will fail.

Thankfully, God also created forgiveness.  Second chances.  And growth.  Our failures don’t define us.  But they do refine us.  And that’s important too.

January 10, 2010

Today’s subject is hard.  One I have been thinking about on and off for sometime now.  It involves admitting.  Being honest with myself.  About whom I am.  Where I am.  And that’s just never easy, is it?

Have you ever wished you were more?  Accomplished more?  Have you ever seen what you should be and what you are and found the latter to be lacking compared to the former?
There are two men in the bible that had an encounter with God.

The first man encountered God, realized it was in fact God, and immediately tried to hide his face because he was afraid to look at God.

The second man needed to go somewhere.  But before he would he go, he insisted on seeing God first. He could not, would not, act without the presence of God.  The second man encountered God because he NEEDED to encounter God to live.

Sometimes it’s so easy to be that first man.  For so many various reasons.  Because we know what we are.  What we’ve done.  The choices we made.  Sometimes it’s not even the choices we’ve made, but the choices we have to make.  And there’s that tugging in the heart that tells us what we should do.  But we don’t want to.

I’ve been that first man most my life.  I’ve known who God is.  Believed in Him with all of who I am.  Without a single doubt.  But acknowledging He is real and bending to His will are two entirely different things.

I’m a willful man who likes it MY way.  And deep down I know that’s wrong.  I wish I were more like that second man.  The one who wouldn’t act, move forward, take another step… unless that step was WITH God.

And do you know it’s ok that I’m not more like that second man this instant?

The wonderful thing about God is that He will take us as we are.  And mold us, shape us, help us grow with time.  You see what I have not said yet are the names of the men in these two stories.

The first man is Moses. (You’ll find this story in Exodus 3:5-5)

The second man is also Moses. (And you’ll find this story in Exodus 33:18-23)

That’s amazing isn’t it?  The quality and caliber of a single man changed so much with time that he went from fearing seeing God to being unwilling to do anything without first seeing God.

It’s so easy to get lost up in past failures.  In misses and losses and could’ves and would’ves.  It’s so easy to look at yourself and think you could be so much more than you are today.  And convince yourself you never will be.

But that is NOT true.

You see so long as you allow God to He will shape you, mold you, guide you, and build you up.  And yes, there will be mistakes.  Moses made mistakes.  But he continued to grow.  Moses was not perfect.  Neither are you.  Neither am I.

The point is God is perfect.  And in our real lives with our real problems and our real needs we have a real God to get us through it.  To help us overcome what we were and become what we can be.

People make mistakes.  People sometimes don’t live up to their full potential.  I often feel like I couldn’t count all the times I’ve failed to be everything I could be.  But God doesn’t see the failure.

How could He?  He is a parent.

And a parent cheers when their son or daughter makes the game-winning basket.

But the parent doesn’t consider their son or daughter a failure for missing it.

Like any parent God sees the child who merely needs guidance to become the man or woman they really can be.  Everyday I come closer to it.  And every day it’s because God is there showing me how.

And maybe, the first true step is to stop fearing seeing God and being reminded of all the things in which we are lacking.  And instead insisting on having God truly present in our life so that He can strengthen us in all those places.

Because when you get down to it if the question ‘Was Moses a great leader?’ was asked, the answer would be no.  God was.

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