Monday, May 31, 2010

Looking Forward...

I never did finish the study on Ruth, nor did I post the response to working out, and to be honest, I probably won't. The last few posts have been in some way answers to those very posts. That and Pedro is going through Ruth and is doing an awesome job of it might I add! Check out the Redeemer series when you get a chance, it totally rocks!

In this post, I don't really have any planned bible verses, nor do I have a sweet analogy to relate things to. None of that, just raw me. Last night I had the opportunity to spend some time with brothers and sisters in Christ. While it was like most other hang outs, later at night, when only a handful remained, we were speaking on the past and on who we used to be. Where it was we came from. All of us have come from different walks of life. While we have lived in the same physical state, the state of mind was by far different. Some of us in Africa, others in Germany, and some even as far as Antarctica, however, regardless of our state, we are here now, together. We are here to push forward and do God's will.

As I listened to the testimonies before me, it was interesting to see just how God works. With people from different places, people of different walks, different ages, different professions, different minds, all fixed on one central point. Earlier in the night we listened to a sermon from Bob Coy on the history of the bible. He made a point that was very interesting and to me reflects on God's consistency in His work. Moses a political leader, Amos a thig picker, Joshua a commander, Peter a fisherman, Matthew a tax collector, Luke a doctor, Paul a Rabbi, James the half brother of Jesus. All different walks, all one central point. All agreed on the same thing.

He is consistent, He really is never changing. I look back just a few months and I realize where I was. I look back a year and realize where I was at this moment last year. I look back five years. Ten. It's amazing. His hand was there, the whole time, working in me, for me, in my favor, and for years, I just spit in His face. I knew what I should be doing, I knew where it was I should be and yet, I continued running. I was almost like Jonah. Yet God would not let me go. In every situation, at every stop, He got on the bus I was on and spoke to me. Whether it was through a friend, a verse, or a situation, He just kept talking to me. He would get off the bus at some stops and watch from the window as I contemplated getting off to go with Him. But there were so many things in that bus. So many people, to many things to be do and take care of.

It is one thing to come to Christ having no prior knowledge of Him and surrendering your life over. It is another thing to just openly make a mockery of Him with my life. To label myself His own and yet continue on my own bus, my own train, heading in my own path. Saving myself from judgment but then not doing anything to save others. It was all about me. When I came to Christ it was about saving me from hell, it wasn't about loving God because He paid the price through Christ who went to hell for me. There is a difference. Love is not self-seeking. Their are plenty of us who don't realize this, but a fear of hell isn't what God wants. Prov 1:7 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of understanding, not the fear of hell.

The fear of hell leads to a life of law with no love. The fear of the Lord leads to a life of law out of love. Sheer and utter love for what it is He saved you from. And now you want nothing more than to live out His word in your life. To be a doer. I look back at my past and see a fumbled life of empty promises to God and those around me, where I made every feeble attempt to fill my void while aimlessly trying to earn my way into heaven. I tried to gain the love of God, something I had for years, yet never felt of saw because of how stupid I had become. All this intellect and no spirit by which to use it for good. What is that about? What kind of life is that? I mean were we just made to fulfill our petty little aspirations in life and look to meet the goals which we have set? Or is it about the ultimate purpose. Eternity outweighs Time. So much so that to compare the box of time which we are confined to to the box of Eternity is like trying to fit the entire ocean in a can of coke.

So as I look back and see where it is He brought me from and I look back and see just how close He was to me the whole time, how His hand was on my shoulder the whole time. How every step I took was a step toward Him. Ultimately, the decision was mine and mine alone. He was so gracious and loving to continue offering me His hand. He was so merciful to continue offering this wretched fool of a man His help. As I look back and see from where it it is I came from, it helps me get a better picture of where it is I am headed. The past is a painful thing, but in it lies hope. When we look back to see where it is we came from, don't see it as a negative. Understand that the place from which you came is the place from which He plucked you. You gave Him permission and immediately, He faithfully pulled you out in response to your cry.

Forget those things which are behind you (Phil 3:13-15). Use the comfort which He gave you to comfort others (2 Cor 1:3-4). I was the chief idiot. The chief skeptic. The chief liar. The chief faker. He is the chief of my life now...I hope others see that (1 Tim 1:15-17).

I sometimes get asked why I look so much into apologetics. Why bother learning and reading so much. Why? Because I want to be able to know all I can about the very thing which saved my soul. The very thing that removed from me years of doubt, years of anxiety, years of discontent, years of anger, shame, uncertainty. I want to learn and defend to the death that which saved my life, and can save yours...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Joy Comes in the Mourning...

Ecclesiastes 7:2 Better to go to the house of mourning Than to go to the house of feasting, For that is the end of all men; And the living will take it to heart.

Death does an interesting thing to us. Some of us have at some point or another experienced the death of a loved one, some have even had near death experiences. In these experiences I have found myself always running into people coming to grips with the cold reality that is death. They don't like the thought of it. They don't like the finality of it. They hate how unexplainable it is. They can't stand the thought of it being beyond their control. As humans, our nature is to gain control of everything in our lives and to live as if we answer to no one but ourselves. It is pride, and it's the soil from which sin is grown (Warren Wiersbe).

What's interesting to see is when we speak of death, usually people remain quiet, saying little. What is it with humans and their fascination with death? It is such a fascination, and yet, it is the elephant in the room. Everyone sees it, however, refuses to acknowledge its existence. Why? Because death for many is finality. After it, there is nothing. Many believe that after this life we cross over into nothingness and nonexistence. It is this that usually causes people to point fingers at Christianity and cause them to tag Christianity as man's attempt at creating something to soothe the pain of "the anxiety of death." I, however, find it funny that we as humans are so desperate to explain it, however, can't accept the hope that comes from the cross.

Solomon said well when he wrote the above. It is true. There is plenty of wisdom to be had with death. Death makes us realize the brevity of life. It makes us come to terms with life and how "it is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." (James 4:14). Guess that's why James tells us in the previous verses not to worry about tomorrow or what it might bring us, because we aren't guaranteed tomorrow. And it is this thought, evoked by death, that causes us to begin asking the big questions. Additionally, it is this thought that begins to cause revelation. We begin to grow an appreciation for the time we have been given and for the things which God has blessed us with.

We then begin to realize that with no time to waste, we need to make well with what we have been given. Essentially, we need to be stewards with all aspects of our lives, and this includes time. Ephesians 5:16 reminds us that the times in which we live are evil and we should make due with what God has placed before us. That guy you spoke to this morning at starbucks, that waitress at Denny's, that cashier at Best Buy, they all need Christ, and they, like us, are not guaranteed tomorrow. Enter into that reality and you begin to gain an understanding for what it means to see people as Christ see's them. We see people cussing, drinking, and doing the wrong; Christ see's souls on a train to hell, with a reverse button at their fingertips, one which many don't even know exists.

I don't say this to scare anyone, however, I do say this to evoke thought. I know for me it is sometimes difficult to evangelize, to live out the bible in my life. It is no easy task, however, it is a race. Run it with endurance (Heb 10:35-26). Never grow tired of doing good (Gal 6:1-9). Death should never scare us, because we know that the first death, brings us to Christ. When a brother/sister in Christ passes, a certain joy does come from our mourning, the joy we have through the hope of Christ. You totally just smiled :-)

Our goal should be to let all those around us know that the first death can happen at any moment, and that without Christ, they'll experience death number two.....and it is worse than the first.... Let's be doers of His word, not just hearers. No one ever gained experience through hearing, only through doing....work out the salvation He has worked into you (Phil 2:12).

Love you guys,

Chris

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Before the Rooster Crows...

Proverbs 14:16 "A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident"

Pride. Warren Wiersbe says that "Pride is the soil from which sin grows" and I couldn't agree more. What is scary about pride is how sometimes we don't notice its roots in our lives. What some of us might call confidence, God would call pride. To think you can stand in the face of sin and withstand it on your own is pride.

When Peter said to Jesus "No Lord, I'll never leave you!" he was definitely not saying this out of humility. Had Peter have said "Lord, I am so prone to leave you, please give me the strength and resolve to remain, despite how I might feel," the result would have been different.

The first part of this verse reminds me a lot of Joseph. When Joseph was presented with the temptation of Potipher's wife, he took off running. Why? Because Joseph understood sin in that he knew as a man, in his own strength, he would sin if he remained in that place. So what did he do? He ran and sought after God. In running he admitted to God, "Lord I can't do this on my own, and the longer I subject myself to this temptation, the more prone I am to committing sin."

1 Cor 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."

Temptation can easily ensnare us, and it gives birth to sin, which if not uprooted can bring forth death (James 1:13-16). Sometimes the best way to uproot it is to avoid it, because in doing so, you never allow the seed to be planted.

Don't be overconfident, you'll be sure to fall. If the door is open, run, and don't look back.

"Pride cometh before failure and a haughty spirit before the fall" Proverbs 16:18

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Our Problems, Solve Themselves....

In the light of those who suffer around me and under me, my life isn't as horrible as it seems. When weighed against the cloud of witnesses that came before me, my life is Disney World. These lyrics I am about to post really did speak to me. Talk about a lesson in being a doer of the word and not just a hearer. To me one of the most important things that we need to do in order to be doers is to die to self. To forget what it is we want and focus more on the well being of others, both their present well being and eternal one.

Having no shoes is a complaint, however, when compared to a man who has no feet, quickly I lose the need for shoes and gain the gratitude for feet. Not having a first class meal when I'm out is a complaint, when compared to a boy who hasn't eaten in days, I gain a new appreciation for whatever is placed before me that I call edible.

In my last small group with the guys at Uth, a few of them spoke of what it means to not have a two parents. What one of them said was unbelievable. While he didn't have a father, he was thankful he had a mother. Here I am, a guy with both parents, and I come to realize, man I don't hug them enough, man I don't love them enough, and here this kid is so thankful for his mom. Talk about a lesson in being a doer. To be a doer, we must truly realize what it is matters to us, and when compared to others misfortunes and mishaps, we soon find that which we thought we lacked, we already had. Sometimes trials and tribs are necessary, because they tend to show us what we already have. For you and I, that's Christ and all He has given us, both now and for eternity (Titus 3:3-7). Now there's plenty to have joy about...

These thoughts had no structure, however, they did have meaning. Forget the man writing for a second, forget the blog, the website, forget the instrument and focus on the music. What is it saying to you...

The song is by a band called As I Lay Dying (they are hardcore, so if you venture to listen to the song, be warned, its heavy metal)

Bound to learn the hard way
This is the human condition
There is nothing that can be said
To stop us from making mistakes
When I look to myself as a source of ending pain
No matter how many times before I've failed

It seems our problems solve themselves
When we look beyond us to those truly in hell

The more I focus on myself
Then the more helpless that I become
So why not erase this point of view?
My suffering is trivial
Compared to those who know real agony

It seems our problems solve themselves
When we look beyond us to those truly in hell
It seems our problems solve themselves
When we look beyond our suffering

My trials seem insignificant now

Why won't we look beyond us?
Why won't we look beyond our despair?
It seems our problems solve themselves
When we look to those truly in hell

Personal redemption cannot change the world
Unless we down our lives for those who still suffer

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In the trenches, taking on grenades...

I haven't neglected the blog, just been real busy. Seems as though God is really showing me just how much work needs to be done. Just to give you guys some of what God is pressing down onto me:

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

God is really pulling up the mirror that is His word and using it to show me what it is in my life that needs changing. I post the blogs, write the devos, read the word, highlight the bible, but what is it doing to me? Is the bible highlighting my life? When I say highlight I mean two things:

1.) Highlight the change needed
2.) Highlight my life

1.) What needs to change? What in your life needs change. The law is to be obeyed. The word is to be read and done, why? Because the law is the mirror which God uses to show to us all the spots, all the blemish, all the tarnish, all the sin we have in our lives. The law exists to show filthy, wretched man, just how much he needs God. It isn't so I can highlight it with fading ink, it is so that I can write it on the tablet of my heart (Prov 3:3) and never depart from it. Cheesy I know, but so true.

We always see the rules and regs as limiting factors. I say this, what if the law isn't about restriction? What if it is about freedom? When you diet, you in essence are putting restrictions on yourself, why? Because you want to experience the freedom of healthy living, you want to experience the ability to enjoy life without worrying about preventable disease. The Word does just that. A healthy spiritual diet leads to continued growth in Christ which, what's more freeing than that? The Word is there to teach us, to stretch us, push us and pull us. It highlights what it is we need to change, then we decide whether we are going to DO all we can to change, or just hear what we ought do, but not do, just hear.

2.) What is the pinnacle in your life? What is the peak, the up, the good? What is it in your life that highlights it? Is your life highlighted by your job? Your education? Your success in ministry? Or is your life highlighted by the word? By His Love? Are you like Paul who said "To live is Christ, but to die is gain?" For you is living, Christ? Where is your heart at? Why are you doing what you do? Is your motive yourself? Your feelings? Friends? Fam? Man all these things while "permissible" aren't always "beneficial". Anything that stands between you and getting closer to Christ must be pushed out of the way.

I'm not saying push your family out of the way, or push your friends out of the way, but I am saying take the need within you that says, "I gotta have it or I'll die, I can't live without this," and toss it. You don't need anything. If you have Christ, His grace is sufficient. You stand between you and God. Get yourself out of the way and shut up. Let His love, His life, His word highlight your life. Let His word mark you up, not only so that you know what not to do, but so that you know what to do. Let what you should do highlight your life.

Many people today see Christians as the don't do's. You can't do this, you can't do that, but it goes beyond law. It isn't about law. Read Romans 7 and see what Paul is talking about. Is he saying now in Christ we are above the law, certainly not! is the phrase used in one translation. If you love Him, keep His commandments, both the don'ts AND the do's. And be sure your heart is in the right place. You can do all you want, you can live all you want, but if your heart is in the wrong place, forget it. Matthew 7:21-23 shows us that. In the end, people will come to Christ showing off what they did, but Christ doesn't care about what they did. He is more concerned with Who it was they did it for. Themselves, or Christ? If you have Christ within you, if you're all about His word and about Him, then do His commandments, and do them because you love Him, not because you love yourself...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Workout Part 2

No one really ever notices the weight gain until one day you wake up and realize just how tight those pants are. The crazy part is how easily you fool yourself into thinking you're just as fit and just as skinny as you once were. It isn't until you get to the gym and lift the weight that you realize you're no where near where you once were and that it will take TIME to get you back again.

I remember driving to church that afternoon, like any other Saturday, and just not wanting to go. Something came over me, I just didn't feel like going. I can't even explain what it was, I just wasn't compelled to go. Immediately I thought of what I would miss out on with friends if I went. I thought of what would happen in the lives of others that I wouldn't be present for. Thoughts of worthlessness began to creep in. There I sat in the church parking lot, wondering if I should go in, waiting for the thoughts to go away. They didn't, so I did. I left church. The same thing happened to me again, only this time it was Wed, then Sat, then everyday.

Sin is subtle. It must first plant itself, be watered, and with time, grow. No one just decided over night to wake up one morning and kill a man. No one decides one day, "Hey, I feel like backsliding!" Remember what James says in 1:14-16. He likens it to birth. We all know that child birth doesn't just happen overnight, it takes 9 months. I'm not saying you have 9 months before it is to late, but I am saying that the longer you entertain the thought, the longer you toy with the idea, the longer you wait to nip the bud, the bigger the bud gets. When Jesus spoke in Matt 5:21-26 He was saying that all sin is the same in His eyes, but He is also saying that sin, if not kept in check leads to, yup you guessed it, more sin. What may start as hate in the heart, may root itself so deep that it may eventually give birth to murder, just like James 1:14-16.

I can still remember not praying about it, I can still remember not seeking godly counsel, man if only I had read a Proverb on "wisdom in a multitude of counsel" or the verse on how "sin lies at the door". If only I had read my favorite book of the bible, if only. If only's do little for you now, looking back, it is easy for me to pin-point where I went wrong. Looking forward it's so hard accepting the ground I need to make up for and the new ground I need to cover. Sometimes I just don't want to and sometimes I ask myself why bother? Complacency is so easy, but it brings forth much more pain in the long run (Zeph 1:12).

The pain that comes from working out the muscles is sometimes unbearable. With each press, each pull, each push, each dash, my muscles are cut up and torn. What takes place after this though is remarkable. The body begins taking the food you eat, and the protein you feed it, and repairs the tears and builds on it new muscle. That new muscle itself will then tear and on it will be put more muscle, and this is how muscle growth works (simply put). All this pushing, pulling, tearing, and dashing builds strength.

This is also how Spiritual growth works. If I leave church (the gym) for a while, my muscles (spiritual ones) begin to lose their solidity. Sure the first few weeks I still have my strength, but over time, it fades (I become cold water). When I return to the gym (church/God) after months or in some cases years, I find myself struggling to lift the lightest weight. Memories of what I once could do begin to flood my mind and I am tempted to leave, however, the failure of having left the first time reminds me what happens when I leave (and this is where that trial, builds character and patience).

With each pull, each push, each tear, and each dash, God begins to tear us up and rebuild us over time. Through the use of His word, He makes us complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). No one said it would be easy, especially when you leave for a while. It's even harder to get back and stay back, but He is faithful and His work cannot be reversed (Isaiah 43:13).

Paul reminds us in Hebrews 12:1 that we have before us a race, race in the greek is "ag┼Źn" which literally means "any struggle or contest, a battle, an action at law, trial, a fight". We will see hardship, we will see trials, it is a battle, a race which requires endurance and patience. When you come to the realization that His burden is light, His yoke is easy, we can get rest at His feet, we realize that our race while normal (just ask the cloud of witnesses Paul talks about in Heb 12:1), if run with an endurance that comes from Him and a patience and a peace that He provides, it doesn't matter what comes our way, He is on our team remember?

So that is nice on paper Chris, but how does one put all these words into practice? Next blog I'll talk about what God has shown me in these last few months...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Words of my Feet..

Isaiah 29:13 Therefore the Lord said: "In as much as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men."

Teach me Lord to speak with more than just words,
How useless is a man whose words are what portray You,
For Your words weren't what saved me,
And my words aren't what make me

Shut the mouth of my heart and mind,
And perk up my ears
Let Your statutes move me,
Let Your love lead me.

I have plenty to say but even more to do,
My only offering is letters on paper,
How weightless a gift!
What good are words without love?
What good is love without action?

Let my love speak through actions,
Let my faith be seen through works,
For what is faith without works?
What is love without weight?

Faith without works is dead,
Words without love is noise,
Love without works is hollow,
And a man without You is nothing...

1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Workout Part 1

I was tired, felt like 5 hours of running...what, only 5 minutes, when did this become so hard? I started working out this week. It's been 4 months now since I last picked up a weight or put foot to pavement to get jogging. Wow has it been difficult. I remember being able to lift so much more weight, I remember being able to run for miles and not be tired, to fit into those really sweet looking jeans. I remember just plain feeling good and being able to share that joy with others, in some cases even motivate them to start a diet and exercise themselves. What happened to those days? Where did I go wrong?

It's funny what one week of not working out does to you. They say it is good to take a break from time to time, but that shouldn't stop you from eating correctly and that certainly shouldn't stop you from maintaining the right mind set about your health. I remember when I started working out, I had all these restrictions in my life. Sure I wanted pizza, but I knew the benefit of eating properly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. People kept telling me I was being extreme, they kept telling me to take it easy and "live a little." The doctor told me that either I restrict my diet, or I follow the deadly path of high blood pressure and diabetes.

Results came slow. At first I didn't see much of a change. Then people made comments about my weight loss, then I started to notice the change myself, so I kept going and going. I started comparing pics of my old out of shape self to my new in shape self. I could see the difference, no longer was it a feeling, I saw it, I knew it was happening, and in seeing that change, people wanted to know how I did it, why it was I started, what motivated me, and what they needed to do to get it done in their own lives. I felt better, while sure my life was restricted, those restrictions brought forth so much more fruit that I could ever have imagined. I was free from the worry of blood pressure, diabetes and any other controllable cause of death. I had so much more energy, the energy just came natural. I went from doing it because I saw results to doing it because it was the right thing to do, and with perseverance and dedication I could continue.

So with all that good, where did I go wrong? Why did I stop the healthy lifestyle? Of course a lot of it I attribute to my surgery and my inability to do much of anything for a good month and a half, but that shouldn't have stopped me from eating properly. So where did I fumble. Well if I remember, it all started with a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I remember buying a box of it while I was in recovery and thinking to myself "Oh man, so good, well you deserve it Chris, you've been good about the diet for a while now, it's time you reward yourself, and besides, you're strong enough to resist it should you gain some weight, you'll burn it off." Cinnamon Toast Crunch became Pizza, Pizza became over eating, and that became not feeling up to the gym, which became not eating 6-7 times a day (small meals) to keep my metabolism going.

A box of cinnamon toast crunch, sounds like a good thing, but to a person who is on a diet, that can spell disaster? I remember eating the first bowl. I remember the taste, (in fact now as I think about it, I want a bowl of it) I remember the crunch, so good! The sugary, sweet, savory taste of toasted goodness. So one bowl turned to two and two to four, and well you get the idea. Rather than gaining control of it, I let it gain control of my diet and as a result it, over time, exploded and ruined my entire diet and routine. Now the crawl back is even more painful than before, but I know what will come of it.

So how can I get back? Well I need to return to what I know worked, do what I know works, and never grow tired of doing it. I need to become motivated. Will I eat bad here and there, yes, but each time I do, I know I'll have to work twice as hard to be sure it doesn't occur. If I don't get ruthless with my eating, it will get ruthless with me.

Did you catch the parallel? We'll talk more on this in my next post :-)