Tag Archives: god

Ouch!

me grinding

My family is a rockhounding family.  Everywhere we go, we plan to look for rocks of all types.  Four years ago, I didn’t know what most of them are, beyond quartz, but now I have a much greater level of knowledge through involvement with our local gem and mineral club.  This has been a great tool to help our family go from picking up any and every rock to being selective with what we keep. At least it helps the pile in my yard get bigger more slowly.

This past year, I have spent time learning how to polish rocks using a wet grinder and some polishing pads I bought at our club’s gem and mineral show last year. I’ve learned how to shape rocks and put a beautiful polish on them that brings out their true character and beauty.

This weekend is our annual gem and mineral show, and it has been my pleasure to be the one doing rock polishing demonstrations.  I’ve been able to meet many people and polish rocks for customers and vendors alike!  It’s hard to believe that four years ago, my family didn’t know beans about rocks.

When I polish a rock, I want to expose what’s underneath, so that the true beauty of the rock can be shown.  The finished product will shine and turn a ho-hum rock into something of value.  Often, however, I must shape a rock to get it to where it will accept a polish.  To do this, I have to use the grinding wheel.  The grinding wheel takes off the jagged, rough parts that do not allow for polishing.  It removes the uneven surfaces to present a face more acceptable to the upcoming transformation.  But the grinding wheel doesn’t polish.  In fact, the end result after the grinding wheel leaves a surface full of scratches and scars that must be sanded away.

After the surface is level or nearly so, and polishing can begin, I start with a 50 grit sandpaper to get rid of the scratches made by the grinding wheel and finish shaping the surface.  After this wheel, I progress through a set of wheels until I finish with a 3000 grit diamond wheel.  I could go further to higher grit, but I don’t currently have the tools to do so.  For my purposes, 3000 grit is fine.

After the grinding wheel, each of the polishing grits must be used with water.  Water is the lubricant that keeps the rock from overheating and fracturing from the friction of the pad.

Why tell you all this?  Because I sometimes feel like that rock.  God wants to reveal his purposes in me and transform me back into the person he intended when he created me, but I’m so stubborn, and I’ve done things that have created rough edges and deep gouges and a self that looks much different than the masterpiece God sees in me.

So he works to remove all those things that hide his masterpiece.  Sometimes his ways are tough to handle.  I can’t imagine what a rock would feel at the grinding wheel if it had feelings, but I know how I feel when a rigid part of me gets demolished by a circumstance God allowed me to endure. Sometimes he is putting finishing touches on an area in my life, and his ways are sweet to my soul because I welcome the change.

But all of that change begins with water.  Baptism is like the lubricant that begins the process of transformation, and celebration of the Lord’s Supper continues that lubrication for our souls as we renew our covenant with God each time we partake.

How’s your life?  Are you still a ho-hum rock? Or are you allowing God to work in you to reveal the masterpiece he created in your mother’s womb?

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God Doesn’t Care…UNLESS…

Have you every talked to your children about their future?

When I’ve talked to my kids, or even youth group members for which I was the youth minister (these are still ‘my kids”), I have been encouraging in my discussion with them. There are the obvious warnings, like staying away from drugs, keeping yourself pure for marriage, and staying away from credit cards. But in every conversation, I usually get around to saying, “it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as your relationship with God is strong and your guiding force.”

Have you ever said something like this? Has anyone ever said that to you?

The basic premise of this concept is that no matter what happens, as long as your relationship with God is intact, you will be OK.

I believe this concept wholeheartedly.

However, our culture regarding God has treated that relationship as if it is different than it truly is. We treat our relationship with God as if God cares tremendously about what job we pick, what school we go to, or whether or not we have a cold.

In trivial, temporal matters, God doesn’t care.

Before you throw me out, hear me out. I’m not saying God doesn’t care about us. God cares tremendously about each and every one of us. God wants us to care about Him and Our relationship with Him. But in this relationship, our perspective of what is important is often different than God’s perspective.

If you’re praying to God about what job you should choose or what career path you should travel, God cares more about the Kingdom and your contentment. Will you rely on and follow God in whatever career you choose? If the answer is “yes”, then it doesn’t matter to God which path you choose.

If you’re praying to God about what school to attend or what to name your child or who to marry, the question God seems to be asking instead is “will you honor Me no matter what?”

God is much more concerned with how you treat others and your involvement in the Kingdom and connection to Him forever than about some temporary thing…UNLESS…

UNLESS you are overcome with anger because of your own pride.

UNLESS you are overcome with a disgruntled spirit because you cannot find contentment in God.

UNLESS you stop loving those around you and yourself because you allow others to overshadow your relationship with God.

UNLESS you are in danger of leaving God altogether.

In these cases, God cares very much. He has sent His Spirit to live in us to help us overcome these temptations in ourselves and in our brothers and sisters around us.

If you want to know what God cares about, look at the kinds of prayers the church prayed in the Bible. Look at the answers given.

God cares about your boldness in the Holy Spirit to spread the message about His love for all people.

God cares about your love for others that drives away fear in spite of intimidating circumstances.

God cares about your salvation and theirs too.

God cares about the growth of His Kingdom of love.

Your cold? Only if it keeps you from doing His work. Your cancer? Only if it distracts you from the great promise you’ve been given in Jesus. Your job? Only if it has the potential of enticing you to leave Him.

When we begin to pray for things that God is concerned about, then we will see God use us in ways we never dreamed. Until then, we may get disgruntled when we pray for some temporal thing unrelated to the Kingdom, and God seemingly doesn’t answer. It’s all a matter of perspective. Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and stop worrying about temporal things (Matthew 6) for godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6).


Most Owned, Least Read

Annually, bibles sales account for over $1,000,000,000.00. Yet also annually, only about 20% of the population say they read their bible regularly. The Bible is the most widely owned, least read book in history.

Why is this?

Every week, church people gather to worship and hear a message from the Bible. The more devout followers also attend bible class and/or small groups one to three other times during the week. Yet, for even these, the Bible isn’t read until they are in those study settings.

Again, I ask, why?

The Bible is an intimidating book. 66 books written over two-thousand years ago at the latest, and some of them nearly 3500 years ago. Yet for 35 different authors over the course of nearly 1500 years to write a book that contains a single thread bringing hope to generations is a miracle!

The Bible contains many teachings that are hard to understand. Does anyone really know for certain what Revelation is about, in detail? There are so many religions claiming the Bible as their book, yet they differ dramatically in their practices. How can a simple person understand it? Why even try? Isn’t it easier to trust that what my preacher/teacher says is reliable?

That’s awfully trusting of you!

For years I have wondered what it would be like to preach a sermon from the pulpit and completely make up all the scripture references and tell a message that gets close to but doesn’t match up with what is really in the Bible. I’d have the fake verses on the screen. No one opens their bibles during that time anyway. How many people would even notice I’d be lying? You wouldn’t notice, unless you already knew the book.

Preachers and teachers, even the most sincere ones, are fallible humans, just like you. They make mistakes, just like you. They have limited understanding, just like you. And they can’t read minds, just like you, so they do not know how a particular passage of scripture directly applies to you, personally.

Instead of waiting for the preachers to preach and teachers to teach, what if we read the Bible for ourselves? Then, when we engaged the preachers and teachers, what if we had questions about what we were already studying? What if our study led us to feel more confident in sharing God’s truths with others? What if studying the Bible daily created transformation inside us that others could see? What if we found greater contentment and joy through the perspective given us through the scriptures daily?

If we didn’t look to the Bible for guidance and a moral foundation in our lives, then how would we be different than the atheist who claims no moral truths? We could make up whatever we felt was right, and many religious people do just that.

No! We need the Bible to show us the path God intends us to walk. We need the Bible to help us connect with the God who loves us and gave Himself for us. We need the Bible to combat the temptations of the evil one. We need the Bible.

But we cant get to the truths of the Bible through osmosis. The words of scripture won’t dissolve through the cover and enter our bloodstream to fill our minds with goodness. We have to open the covers and read for ourselves, or listen (there are many, free audio versions of the Bible even for your phone).

Do you know what’s in there? Do you REALLY know? It’s time to start your journey into the text today. Most translations are written on a 6th grade reading level. If you find something you don’t understand, then connect with a spiritually mature person who can help you. Be transformed by the word so that you can be used to transform the world.


Monday Through Saturday – Sunday Too

Why did you become a Christian? Were you looking for salvation from the wrong you’ve committed? Were you looking for inner peace and purpose? Were you looking for a way to overcome the grave? Were you trying to understand what science could not explain?

You became a Christian – you gave your heart to God through Jesus. But did you understand the implications of this transaction?

The whole bible is a long narrative that many people do not comprehend. So many people are looking at the small details of this law and that story and this church that they miss the bigger picture.

Man and God were in perfect relationship, but mankind cheated on God and broke the relationship. God worked diligently to show them a way back, but all ways before Jesus were tastes of that relationship. Then Jesus came and offered full restoration of the relationship between mankind and God. Now we have that relationship back, so we live in the kind of love we’ve been shown by God.

We’ve been given this relationship. Freely. Through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection.

Now God has chosen to take up residence, not in a temple in one location, but in each heart of each Christian. God is here. God is with us. In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

We got salvation, but were we looking for relationship?

We want God when we are in trouble. We want Him to take away our sniffles and cure our diseases. We want Him to ease the pain of heartache and exact justice on our enemies. We want God to change the world.

God simply wants us. All of each of us.

Have you ever loved someone so much it didn’t matter what they did, you’d live them anyway? That’s how God loves us. That’s the relationship He wants us to experience in Him.

Then, as we experience and understand that relationship, we are given to worship Him. We worship Him because He has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We worship Him because He, in all His majesty, desires relationship with us.

The worship we are called to is not Sunday morning worship service worship. That is one small part of the worship God desires from us. He has given so much for us; could we not, in return, offer Him all of our life in return? Worship is how we are to live. It isn’t simply an action we participate in once in a while.

When you fall in love with your significant other, your whole life revolves around them. Everything you do is to honor them. All you can think about is them. Is that how you react to God?

Everything you do, if you are a Christian, is done in the presence of God with God’s Spirit in you. When you speak life in others, you bring God glory. When you curse others, you bring Him shame. When you love, you reflect His goodness, yet when you hate, you misrepresent the One whose Name you confess. When you join together with other Christians, you recognize your part in His family. When you reject Christian community, you despise His gifts to you.

When you live in worship daily, you will be more committed to joining other Christians in worship weekly in a church building. However, when you make weekly gathering a priority in your life, you may find yourself encouraged to worship daily as well.

So, what shall we do? Pray to God constantly – recognizing your relationship with Him. Worship through actions that honor His Name in you. Gather with His family to experience His love through others who love by His Spirit living in them. Live in worship daily and so honor the One who did for you what you could not do for yourself.


Dutiful Valentine

It’s love week. Everyone is thinking about upcoming Valentine’s Day. For some, it’s “singles awareness day”. But even so, it’s still appropriate to be reminded of those you love and those who love you: Family, friends, etc…

When I first got married, I remember trying to do special things for my wife on Valentine’s Day. It didn’t take me long to realize she didn’t appreciate my gifts on Valentine’s Day as much as I had hoped.

If you know my wife, you know that she is a great woman who shows love to many. She wasn’t being inappropriately dismissive; she had a different perspective on the holiday. For her, getting gifts of love on Valentine’s Day is like getting a hug from a kid whose parents told them to do it. Valentines Day is a great reminder to love, but to love only on Valentine’s Day or because of Valentine’s Day is disingenuous.

If we love out of duty, then we aren’t loving.

Think about it. If someone gave you a gift, but when you thanked them for it, they responded with, “Well, I had to give it to you; it was my duty.” How would you feel? Would you have the warm-fuzzy’s for that person and their gift? If the only time we show love is when it’s expected, then are we really loving others?

Why should we love?

Other people are difficult. They’re a pain to deal with. They argue with us and make life a mess all around us. And we’re difficult too, so why should we love them?

Have you been loved?

In church, it seems like the greatest trump card answer is either God or Jesus. Have They loved you? Someone once said this about Jesus: “Jesus said, ‘I love you this much.’ And he stretched out his arms and died.” Do you see the love of Jesus? Do you experience the love of God, the Father? Do you understand what has been done on your behalf regardless of your appreciation or response or devotion or understanding? If so, you’ve been loved.

Have you been loved by anyone else? Mother, Father, Sibling, Significant Other, Friend, Co-worker, Boss, Employee, Random Stranger. Has anyone shown you love?

If you’ve been loved, then the appropriate response is to love in return. To refrain from loving others is to show contempt for the love you’ve received.

Yes, love is a command, but love is also the “why” behind the command. God wants us to love others because He already loves them. He has already sacrificed so much and created so much for them. He already sees them as His children, and just as you want others to love your children, so God wants us to love His children.

But not out of duty. Instead, we should love out of appreciation. We love in reciprocation. We love in adoration – for God and for those God loves.

If we only love on Sundays, we are hypocrites. If we only love those who love us, we are selfish and without the heart of Jesus who loved those who crucified Him. If we only love on holidays, our love is shallow and meaningless.

Instead, choose to love everyone. Don’t categorize people. Do what is necessary to love everyone equally. Listen to them and find out how to love them best. Love is a choice we make to treat others how we would want to be treated because we’ve already received grace and mercy.

And don’t just do it on Valentine’s Day.


Even Though…

Do you ever have times when life seems to be crashing down all around you?

The ending of this year has been tough for many people. Death, destruction, divorce, despair, drought. All of these are affecting people’s perspectives on life as we know it. Where is the hope when times are down?

Do you know the Lord?

This is kind of a cliché, but, seriously, do you know Him?

Do you know His might? Have you experienced it in your life? Did you notice when He worked mightily for you as a fulfillment of Romans 8:28 in spite of uncertain future events? Do you hear Him call you to draw near to Him? Do you feel His presence when you’re alone? Do you talk with Him like He’s your Father?

Do you know the Lord?

Many people know ABOUT God. They read (or have read) about Him in the Bible. They may even go to bible class and worship services, but their experience with God is entirely intellectual. This is not what God intended for us. This is not why Jesus came to the earth to make the way to God through his death on the cross and resurrection. Now that you have access directly to the Father through Jesus and by His Spirit living in you, you can have relationship with God Most High as His child.

When you get to know God, you find He is wonderful in every way. He is gentle and ferocious. He is loving, and He avenges those He loves. He is generous, but He is also a disciplinarian. He is the ultimate Father – better than any earthly, flawed, human father could hope to be.

So, times are down. Hope is distant. This year has been tough for you, and the next year doesn’t look too bright either.

Look to the Lord like Habakkuk.

Around 612-606 B.C., Habakkuk had a conversation with God concerning the future of His homeland. He asked God, “Why don’t You do something about all the injustice in the land?” (This is a common question many of us ask today.) God responded by telling Habakkuk about the exile of Judah to Babylon. Habakkuk recoiled at the idea that a heathen nation who didn’t recognize God would be used to discipline God’s chosen. But God comforted Habakkuk with words of just enough explanation to ease Habakkuk’s consternation.

Habakkuk learned of God’s justice but also of His love for His children. He learned of God’s might and constancy. He learned to see God with the faith that leads to righteousness. This would lead Habakkuk to finish His conversation with God in worship.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Did you see the scene Habakkuk sets up as he is led into worship? All of life around him is failing. Economy is collapsing, and famine is knocking at the door, but this will not dissuade Habakkuk from his faith in God.

In fact, “Though” is a mighty word here. No matter the situation, whether good times or bad, Habakkuk will take joy in God and look to Him for strength and salvation. He may not be able to see or understand the future, but he knows God is already there and has promised to be with him.

Hebrews 13:5-6 reminds the church that God has said, “I will never leave or forsake you.” This gives us confidence to resist fear.

Fear cripples us. Despair is a form of doubt. But God is near to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18).

So, no matter how bad this year has been, and no matter what may come in the upcoming years, we can still rejoice in the God who has saved and continues to save us through the trials of this life because of our hope in the life to come. Know the Lord. Know His comfort. Rejoice in Him. And share His goodness with others who are struggling.


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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