Tag Archives: god

Four Reasons

Sometimes I wonder why things are the way they are. I question why people do the things they do in the ways they do them. This questioning has led me to a great understanding of many things in my life as I don’t take things merely at face value. But what about Christianity?

What makes Christianity so great? Here are four things I see as invaluable about Christianity.

1. Eternal Life

This week a good friend of mine died. It was hard to watch him go, and now that he is gone, I miss him. Yet, to watch him while he lived, and to listen to him, was inspiring. He couldn’t wait to be with the Lord in heaven – face-to-face with Jesus. He couldn’t wait to see the Garden of Eden. He couldn’t wait to be healed of his cancer.

Eternal life is a central belief of Christianity. We believe that when we are saved, we are granted eternal life. This life allows us to have direct access to the Creator of the universe who above all things and in all things. We believe that through Jesus there is no longer separation between God and man necessitating a human mediator like a priest, for we are all priests, through Jesus, who have direct access to God.

This access begins when we are saved. At that time, the Holy Spirit is given to us (Acts 2:38) – God’s Spirit living inside us – and that Spirit is the deposit, guaranteeing our inheritance in heaven (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5 and Ephesians 1:14). This promise of heaven gives us hope beyond this life. It is a hope for something more than simply becoming dust again to a purposeless end.

This hope allows for a perspective shift among Christians. This world is not all there is, so everything is temporary.

2. Family

When you receive salvation, you are granted entry into not only the presence of God but also his family. He created all of us, but we chose to live our own way like runaway children. Through Jesus, he invites us back into the family along with other believers. What this means for us each day is this: we don’t have to live this life alone. When we try to live life alone, it is very easy for temptations to overcome us, and we walk away from God again and again. But when we are doing life together with other people who are trying to live the ways of Jesus in their everyday life, it becomes easier to stay on the narrow path ourselves. Some people claim they don’t need the church to be a Christian. This is totally in contrast to what the Bible says (Hebrews 10:25). The greatest commands are these: Love God, and Love Others (all others – even your enemies). In fact, in 1 John 4, John says that we love God BY loving others. The Bible also says we are to do good (read: love) to all people, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters (Galatians 6:10). I know that some churches are filled with Jerks. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. At times everyone can be mean – even you and me. The church is full of broken sinners in need of the grace of God through Jesus. Hurt people hurt people. Latch onto the good people. Do life with them. Let God sort out the bad, but don’t cut yourself off from the family because of one or two. And in today’s culture, if you are in a church that isn’t loving, you can probably find one that is loving just down the road, or maybe across town.

3. Purpose and Direction

Of the things I have mentioned so far, this may be the one not understood the most by well-meaning Christians. When you give your life to Christ, you are pledging devotion to be His follower, His disciple. That means you are pledging to live according to His teachings. You don’t have to live life haphazardly. Through the teaching of Jesus, there is a direction for your life – a code by which you should live. This code gives a standard. It allows us to evaluate our lives to see whether we are doing good or bad. In atheism, there is no standard of good or bad – those ideas are subjective to the person. In Christianity there is a standard (2 Timothy 3:16).But this direction isn’t just a set of rules to govern our lives. It is meant to help us live out our purpose as well. What is that purpose?We are called to help the kingdom grow through evangelism (Matthew 28:12-20). Every. Single. Christian. Is. An. Evangelist. Or at least they should be. Here is where Christianity is falling by the wayside. The majority of Christians don’t live out their purpose. We are supposed to love other people, and through that love, we show them the way TO Jesus and the way OF Jesus. When you don’t understand your direction and purpose, it is easy to become the kind of Christian people run away from rather than toward.

4. It’s free

So many religions around the world expect you to do certain things to achieve relationship with their deity of choice. Christianity is not this way. The purpose and direction of Christianity are there to help you live a better life and enjoy life more. They are meant to help this world become a better place. They are not meant to help you achieve some sort of status before God.

We are all sinners. We have all walked away from God and His ways. We have all broken his commands to love. So what can we do to undo what we’ve done?

Nothing.

We can’t undo wrong by doing right. The merit system doesn’t work that way. In order to undo our wrong, there has to be a substitution for our life. This is where Jesus comes into play. He lived perfectly, and at his death and resurrection, his perfect life was exchanged for broken, sinful one if we would receive it.

We can’t live good enough to deserve to be in the presence of God, but through Jesus, we are granted entrance into God’s Kingdom and into his family in spite of our wrongs (Romans 5:6-8).

Christianity is the only religion where salvation is given freely. All these blessings listed above are free. You don’t have to earn them (Galatians 5:1).

The way to connect with the blessings of God is to be connected to the Cross of Jesus (Romans 6:1-4). That’s it. We ask God to cleanse our consciences (1 Peter 3:21), and we trust that He has saved us. We cannot save ourselves.

I’m glad to be a Christian. There’s so much hope here. I hope you will consider joining the family too.

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Dinosaurs and Epilepsy

When I was a child, the world looked so much differently than it does now that I am older. My education and experience grant me a perspective that a child cannot fathom. As a child, this perspective of the unknown, which was way bigger than the known, created a dependence on our parents, who knew much more about the world than we did.

When we became teenagers, we began to stretch our wings and try things with an attitude of invincibility, figuring that we knew enough of the world to get by. This attitude of independence led many of us into trouble and poor decisions that we still deal with the consequences of to this day. Once we survived through a few years of this ignorant independence, we began to realize that our parents knew so much more than we did, and we turned back to them for advice and perspective. This was a healthy turn in many of our lives.

When we read the Bible, we get a glimpse into a culture that is far removed from our own. So much of what we understand due to the maturing of the world and cultures was not know when the Bible was experienced and then explained in writing. The Bible speaks of dragons and monsters, but they didn’t have the word, dinosaur, to describe these large beasts, nor did they have the scientific understanding of their natures that we do. The word, dinosaur, wasn’t coined until the mid-1800s.

They also didn’t know how to explain certain ailments. When a person fell to the ground in convulsions beyond their control, they said the person had a demon or an unclean spirit. Jesus healed a few such issues when he walked around Palestine. However, today we know this ailment as epilepsy. Our scientific understanding allows us a perspective that is greater than that of the ancient near-east.

[I am not denying the supernatural events that happened in scriptures. Jesus raised the dead. Samuel was summoned from beyond the grave. The epileptic was completely cured without medicine, so were the lame and the blind. Yet, there is still an understanding today that differs from that of the Bible-times.]

It is amazing to consider how humanity has grown in their understanding of the world around them and how it works. Science is a blessing, and through science we have made tremendous advancements in technology, medicine, and psychology. Some of the science we understand today, like water cycles, underwater springs in the ocean, and the solar system, were hinted about in the Bible long before they were discovered. Science and the Bible are meant to accompany one another – not oppose one another.

There is one thing that science has caused, however, that is not healthy. When the world was immature, like a child, the people looked to God (or other deities) for help with the unexplainable. There was a general faith among people that brought peace and help in time of need. There was a trust that God would help in the ways needed. And He did.

Through science, much of the world has come to the conclusion that the unexplained is explainable, therefore we do not need God. In our daily lives we rely on ourselves and our understanding to make it through the day without much thought of our relationship with the Creator of the universe. Even Christians, who pledge their devotion to God through Jesus, live daily more like atheists than Christians as they exercise their independence from the Creator.

This is not to say we should go back to the ignorance of the dark ages and before. We live in a grand age of understanding.

Yet, we must not be so arrogant in our education that we assume independence from the One whose foolishness is wiser than our wisdom.

In your daily life, how often do you pray? How much do you know of God through the Bible? How many times per day (or year) do you make a decision based on faith rather than an educated guess? How much trust do you put in the promises in the Bible and the personality of Jehovah?

Our knowledge of the world has puffed up humanity to the place of humanistic atheism. In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar had just such an attitude, and he had to be humbled by God. The Bible says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) May we enjoy and grow through science, but may we not be so puffed up by our knowledge of science and the workings of this world that we forget there is so much more we don’t understand that can only be explained and controlled by God. And may we not forget that God wants to work in our lives, for our good, everyday (Romans 8:28; Hebrews 13:5-6) – He’s that personal.


God Doesn’t Use Bubble Wrap


Have you ever seen a parent that hovers and smothers? This kind of parent protects their children from everything that might happen to them. Ever. If they had their way, they would wrap their children in bubble wrap before sending them anywhere.  They don’t want their children out of their sight. 

Maybe you’re that kind of parent. There are times and places where that is not unreasonable, but for most circumstances children need the freedom to be able to make mistakes and even suffer some scrapes and bruises. 

Mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn. But we only learn from these mistakes when we have the proper attitude. 

God is called our Father. He is good. He is the definition of good. Yet he doesn’t rescue us from all our mistakes and situations we find ourselves in. 

Sometimes we wonder why he allows bad things to happen to his children! This is because he isn’t the smothering, controlling God. He’s the loving God who uses each circumstance to help us grow. 

Lessons thrust upon us by outsiders may be intellectually learned, but lessons learned through our own experiences are typically much longer lasting. We learn by experience naturally. We learned to walk by trying to walk. We learn how to communicate with others by communicating and seeing responses from others. We learn what not to do often by doing it first and reaping the consequences. 

God says to endure hardship as discipline. This isn’t because God wants to punish you. It is because he wants you to grow in perspective so that you may learn from each situation you create or find yourself in. In doing so we grow. 

As we grow in our perspective and ability to learn in every circumstance, then the promise from Romans 8:28 comes true: He works all things for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose. 

How do you respond in hard times? Do you wish God were more controlling and protective? Can you see the health in His allowing you to grow through your experiences?  As we endure we find patience, persistence, perspective, compassion for others, capacity to help others, identity, personality, coping skills, contentment, and many others traits necessary for joy in this life. 

God isn’t punishing you. He loves you and wants you to grow through your situation. And He has promised to never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). So keep moving forward. This too shall pass. And if you allow yourself to grow in it, this situation can help you become the kind of person God wants you to be. 


Who’s Your Daddy?

Several years ago I was introduced to a book that would shape the way I think about grace and love and God. It is one of the top four books I’ve ever read, and ever so often I revisit the book to find encouragement. This March, a movie will be released that is based on this book, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. 
What’s the book?  The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. 

Even though this is one of my favorite books, it is causing quite a stir in the Christian community especially because of how he book portrays God.  This book, when you first meet God, portrays him as an overweight black woman named, Papa. 

How does that affect you? 

So much of our culture emphasizes the masculine. We talk about God as Father and King and rightly so. We refer to God as “him” as the bible does. But could God portray himself as a woman?

In order for us to fully understand the concept of God, we must remember that God created man and woman. There is no way on earth a man could comprehend a woman enough to create one. They’re just too enigmatic to us guys. The Creator, by necessity of the concept, must transcend the limitations of his creation. God is not a man, nor is he limited to our concepts of manhood.

God is not physical at all. The scripture says that God is Spirit (John 4:24). In the Hebrew, the word for spirit is “Ruah”, a feminine word. In fact, in this book/movie, the Holy Spirit will show itself as a woman. 

In order for women to be made “in the image of God”, they must display the attributes of God. The things that you think of as feminine personality characteristics are throughout scripture as characteristics of God – not merely manly characteristics. Characteristics like love, nurture, and compassion are traditionally associated with women in our earthly culture. 

So, I don’t have a problem with this book allowing God to portray himself as a woman if the situation calls for that manifestation (spoiler: later in the story, he switches back to the elderly father-look).

What’s the point? God, Jehovah, is God because he is grander than our ability to comprehend. His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). His foolishness (if that even makes sense) is wiser than man’s greatest wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:25). He existed before there were the constraints of our universe, including time. He is an other-dimensional being that we cannot fully comprehend. If we could, he would cease to be God. 

Every time humans try to put limits on God – put Him in a box – He breaks the box. There are no limits to His grace and love, though many have tried to say there is. He doesn’t sleep or get tired (that gives different perspective on the need for the seventh day – rest – in Genesis 2). He is the God of the universe, above the universe, who holds the whole world in His hands. 

That’s my Heavenly Father. That’s my Papa. And just like a kid comparing his dad to others’, I can’t accept any lesser God to take his place. 

So, who’s your daddy? The limitless God, or some idol concocted by tradition. Mine is Jehovah. 


Thank God for the Rain

  So much of the outcome of our daily lives is determined by our perspective. 

When Jody and I were getting married we had a beautiful service planned. We had picked out a great spot in a park with a huge gazebo.  We got chairs and decorations for everyone to sit on the grass out front while Jody and I, the minister, and the bridal party stood in the gazebo. This set up would allow for us to have a sound system so that I could sing while Jody was being escorted down the aisle. It was a picture-perfect plan. 

Then it rained. 

It didn’t just rain a little. We had been in a drought that year, and it was like God was saving all the rain for our wedding day. I kept thinking about that line in an Alanis Morissette song, “it’s like raaaain on your wedding day”.

We were going to take pictures before the wedding after a private moment between Jody and me, but instead of taking our pictures on a sunny day in a beautiful park with a gorgeous gazebo, we took pictures in the hotel lobby. Jody and I were already planning on being barefoot, but now the whole female side of the wedding party was going to have to go shoeless. I drove to every store I could think of to find umbrellas for the wedding party that would match the girls’ dresses (which I miraculously found). 

When the time came for the wedding the guests had to stand in the gazebo. With us. Crowded together in an intimate ceremony. Instead of singing while Jody was escorted down the aisle, I had to wait until we were face to face and sing.  The bridal party even had to jump a small, newly formed creek just to get to the gazebo. 

When the minister began to speak he said something I’ll never forget. “In Africa, rain is always a blessing.” 

Jody and I still think it was the most beautiful wedding we could have had. We love the rain. 

Lately it’s been raining. A lot. Since we live in the desert we are overjoyed at the rain, but it doesn’t bring joy for all people. Some people can’t stand the rain. Some people get depressed when it rains. Some people get frustrated that their plans have to change when it rains. 

It’s all a matter of perspective. 

In Jesus we are called to have a perspective shift. When the storms of life rage around us we have the Holy Spirit living inside us as a guide through the storm. When we’ve created the storm we have a God who loves us and has promised to turn everything for our good because we love Him. 

He has not promised to take away the storms, but He wants to help us have a more positive perspective within them. Remember, God invented rainbows, but you don’t get those without first enduring the rain. 


Wearing a T-shirt to a Black Tie Affair



Respect is an idea that is becoming more uncommon in our world. As parents behave like teenagers and raise their children to be even less mature it is a struggle to teach kids basic manners of respecting their elders or even respecting the atmosphere to which they have been invited. 

What would happen if you were invited to have dinner with the governor? Imagine you showed up to this formal event wearing your most comfortable shorts and t-shirt. Would that not give an air of disrespect to the sanctity of the event? Then, when greeted by the governor you refused to shake his or her hand or even acknowledge his or her presence. How long would you expect to be allowed to remain at that dinner?

This concept is not hard.  It is not a foreign concept that has to be militaristicly taught to the upcoming generations. It merely needs to be modeled and then expected. 

Within our churches many have created a much more relaxed atmosphere. God looks at the heart and not the outward appearance.  I believe this is good and creates the inviting atmosphere needed for people to feel comfortable coming and learning about and experiencing Jesus. 

One of the concepts that we trend toward losing in our desire to be colloquial is that of reverence and honor before the Lord. 

When we sing, we are singing to Jehovah, the Creator, in His presence. When we study, we are studying the very words of God. When we see our brothers and sisters, we are encountering those who have been clothed with Christ and in whom lives the Spirit. When we partake of communion, we are partaking of the body and blood that was shed for our sins by the One who Created us. 

Malachi 1:6 says this:

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. (NIV)

When we come together we should be showing our children what reverence looks like. If they do not understand it, then we should be instructing them in the ways of honoring the Lord. 

God accepts us where we are, but He doesn’t leave us there. He wants us to grow in our understanding. He wants us to grow into the image of His Son. “Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10 ESV).”

Next time you’re in worship with your brothers and sisters pour out your heart. Worship the Lord with all of your might. Remember what He  has done and is doing for you every day, and show your children what it means to honor the Lord. God isn’t looking for your suit and tie, but He is looking for your heart of reverence toward Him, and He’s looking to us to instill that mindset and heart of reverence in our children as well. 


Who am I to preach?

preach
I’m a sinner.

Every day I struggle with thoughts of anger and resentment. Sin is constantly trying to get me to fall into its greedy temptations, and many times I fall.

I’m not perfect.

People often expect the preacher to be better than everyone else, but I’m not. I struggle with grudges and addiction. I am not a man to be placed on a pedestal. I am a man who wants to walk with you not above you.

People think that the preacher must always have great faith, but, to be honest, sometimes I struggle. Yes, I do come back to a remembrance of all the glorious things that have happened in my life that can only be explained by God’s handiwork, but that doesn’t mean I’m strong every day.

I struggle with depression and stress and anxiety. I struggle with people who don’t see things my way.

I struggle with selfishness.

If you’re looking for the perfect preacher, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I need the grace and forgiveness of Jesus as much or more so than anyone reading this.

But I am forgiven.

I have given my life to Jesus, and though not all of my life looks like that of Jesus it is no less offered to Him.

I have been saved by the grace of Jesus, and I get the chance to start anew each day through the gift of repentance and forgiveness.

That is why I preach. I preach because I know how badly I need a Savior, and I know how great my Savior truly is. I preach because despite my selfishness I still have genuine love for those around me and want to see them receive the same gift I have been given.

I preach because the blood of Jesus didn’t just cover my sins from yesterday, but it covers my sins today and tomorrow and forever. I preach because I want to live foreverin the warmth of the love that is the presence of God in heaven. I preach because I want you to be there with me celebrating that glorious rest.

I preach because there is nothing else in the world I could think of doing. It is like a fire shut up in my bones (Jeremiah 20:9)..

I preach because I understand that nothing good lives in me, but the Holy Spirit in me brings out whatever good there is. I preach because I know that God doesn’t expect me to be perfect – He just wants me to be willing.

I preach because I love being a part of the plan of God to bring you and others to the cross and the empty tomb. I preach because I am addicted to watching people’s sins be forgiven as they connect with Jesus’ death and resurrection through their baptism (Romans 6)

I hope you can accept a flawed preacher. I hope you will allow me to walk with you as we both strive to love God, love others, and become more like Jesus. I pray that you preach too (Philemon 6).


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