Tag Archives: jesus

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).


Einstein is Fishy

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

This quote is hanging in my office. I love the sentiment. The idea that each person learns differently and has unique potential is spot on in my opinion.

Most of the time, when you see this quote, it is attributed to Einstein. Probably FALSE. The most likely source for this quote is actually an unknown author who wrote in the late 1800’s under the pen name Aesop Jr.

“Finding quotes on the internet is only slightly easier than making them up.” – Abraham Lincoln.

Do you ever feel stupid? Do you feel smart? What is the litmus test for determining the education level of a person?

One of my favorite movies is “Goodwill Hunting”. In this movie, a juvenile delinquent, who reads profusely, solves what was known as the unsolvable equation. His education was self-taught. He had a job as a janitor, but he was more proficient than many of the full-time students. Why? Because he invested himself in personal education.

I know many people who think they are smart but are very ignorant. I know others who feel stupid but are actually brilliant. Some people are naturally gifted one way or another to have perspective on certain topics, but in others, they are deficient. I once knew a genius who graduated high school as a freshman but couldn’t find his next class in a one-hall school. Intelligence is subjective to the matter being discussed.

So, all that discussion on education…how do you feel about your intelligence regarding our response to God and His word, the Bible?

Many people are truly ignorant of the Bible, but it is because they have never read it. Some people think they are knowledgeable of the Bible because they know what they’ve been taught for years, but they, too, never read it; they already know what’s in there. Some people read the Bible profusely, scrutinizing every word, but they, too, are ignorant of the Bible’s purpose.

Jesus said to the religious leaders, “You diligently search the scriptures because you think that in them you will find eternal life, but those very scriptures talk about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have eternal life.”

It is possible to do this today. It is not uncommon for people to get so caught up in how we are to do church and what doctrines are false or correct that we miss having a real relationship with Jesus. We spend time in the Bible to be able to answer questions and make arguments, not to fall in love with the author. We pray to ask God for stuff and intervention instead of just wanting to be in His presence. We fast to seek God’s….oh, wait. No, we don’t fast anymore.

We all want to feel smart about God and the Bible, but if we don’t know the author, then the intelligence we gain through reading words on a page is useless. Knowledge puffs up, and many people in the church are balloons. No wonder they pop at the slightest things that don’t fit their pre-conceived theology. When our foundation is merely knowledge, then things that challenge that knowledge challenge us. When relationship is our foundation, then there is little that can shake us from that foundation (Romans 8:35).

Let us all focus on growing in our love for Jesus and our knowledge of His love for us. May we see the scriptures as a map showing us God’s love and confirming our relationship with Him. And may we find security in this relationship that cannot be shaken when someone comes with a different argument that has no bearing on our relationship with the Father.


Cowboys and Christians

John-Wayne-Cowboy-Poster

I bet you’ve never heard ole Marshall Dillon say
Miss Kitty have you ever thought of running away
Settling down will you marry me
If I asked you twice and begged you pretty please
She’d of said, “Yes in a New York minute”
They never tied the knot
His heart wasn’t in it
Stole a kiss as he rode away
He never hung his hat up at Kitty’s place

(From “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” by Toby Keith)

Do you like old westerns? Growing up, I always thought my grandpa was just like John Wayne, and he looked like him too.  We love it when the loner rides into town, cleans up the mess, and leaves like he came – independent and alone.

We like other kinds of hero movies for similar reasons.  When the hero, against all odds, saves the day without the help of anyone else, we cheer! There are no stereotypical heroes. Men, women, children, dogs. We root for the underdog and love to see him or her win.

They are the savior of the moment. They didn’t need anyone.  Everyone needed them.

We have adopted quite a liking to this loner mentality.  Our culture today is as individualistic as it has ever been.  We know more about our friends than ever through social media, but we are statistically more lonely and depressed than ever.  We pride ourselves on our independence and ability to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

Even the “American dream” encourages this idealism that pits a person or family against the world to succeed in wealth, prestige and power.

But is individualism best?

My own personal savior, Jesus Christ.

The individualistic ideal of today that is standard thinking for many in America is foreign to so many others around the world, and it is a relatively new concept associated with the rise of industrialism, capitalism, and urbanization.

In days gone by, a family would need the entire community to survive.  Older generations weren’t carted off to homes for senior care.  They were incorporated into the everyday life of the family.  The nuclear family wasn’t separate from the collective.  People didn’t seek to be alone.

When you read the scriptures through the lens of individualism, then it would seem fitting that Jesus is our own personal savior. One for each of us.  But Jesus didn’t just come to die for you alone.  His plan was for the world.  The language of the scriptures isn’t that of individualism; it exudes collectivism.

Yet, when we read stories like the gathering of the first church in Acts 2, we immediately think of terms like socialism or communism or utopian societies or cults.  They thought of community.  They were using what they were blessed with to help those they considered family.  To seek independent wealth would be to show disdain for the collective need.

This collectivist mindset was the norm for those in the Middle East in the first century.  Yet, today, we are far removed from such thinking.  If we could refocus to see the collective view, the scriptures would open up to us in new ways, the church would mobilize again to look like she began, and we would find new purpose in our faith in Jesus.

When you read the word “you” in the New Testament, more often than not the word is plural – speaking to the whole church – not just the individual reading.

As it is, our individualistic mindsets convince us to hoard our wealth and give leftover to the church. We hide in buildings to see one another once a week or less, and we convince ourselves that we can seek this personal relationship with Jesus without attending services with other hypocritical Christians.

These ideas are entirely foreign to the church of the New Testament – the church of Jesus.

Jesus is your savior, but he’s the savior of the whole world, and you’re a part of it.  He’s the savior of the church, and you’re a part of it.  YOU (singular) aren’t the church.  WE (collectively) are the church.


Mountain Roads

Have you ever taken a trip up a mountain road? I’m not talking about one with pavement or that your Ford Focus could cruise along. I’m talking about a mountain road that will take you above tree line.

When you embark upon a mountain road trip, you must begin with the proper frame of mind. To think you are doing this for a joyride will have you met with frustration and worry. Taking a trip up a mountain road is an adventure.

Depending on the time of year, you may be met with all sorts of adversity. You must have high clearance, and four wheel drive is recommended, for you are going where normal cars cannot, and you’re doing this for the scenery, access to places few can go, and adventure.

On a few occasions, I have met sharp rocks and bald tires. I have changed flats on mountainsides in the rain. I have had to move boulders to forge ahead. I have encountered streams that needed to be crossed and snow banks that needed to be traversed. I’ve even come upon logs that either had to be moved or driven over. A few times I have even come to a place where the vehicle could no longer go, and I set out on foot to see what lays ahead.

Driving mountain roads is definitely an adventure.

As I said before, it is not a joyride. If I was looking for scenery without danger, I would be nervous from the drop-offs and narrow roads. It would ruin my day when an obstacle arose. My attitude would be adjusted by every unforeseen circumstance.

But I drive mountain roads for the adventure, and that adventure brings me joy.

I have seen mountain sheep and tundra. I have been to alpine lakes with pristine water. I have breathed clean air and seen for miles and miles. I have driven places most people will never see and found treasures absent in lower elevations.

The adventure is worth it, for the benefits outweigh the trials.

In our churches, we pray, a lot. Nearly every week I hear others pray on numerous occasions, and one of the most common things prayed for is safety. Are we called to be safe? If I was striving for safety in my wanderings, I would never attempt to drive a mountain road, and I would never see the places I’ve seen.

If we walk this life looking for safety, we will never achieve the goals God has set for us to reach the world for Him. Safety is not possible when you are evangelizing. Safety isn’t attainable when you are pouring yourself out for others. Safety is not a goal of the church that belongs to Jesus.

Jesus has redeemed our life – bought it – He owns us. He wants to use us, and in the name of stewardship, we seek safety. And the church dwindles.

Have you experienced the joy of seeing a friend and loved one give his or her life to Christ? Then, you have taken the risk of rejection. Have you poured yourself out to the point of exhaustion in service to someone? Then you have experienced the joy of selflessness. Have you loved unconditionally only to be burned? Then you know what Christ experienced. Have you heard the call to visit (mission trip) or move (missionary) somewhere new for the sake of the kingdom? Have you heard the call to reach your neighborhood? Did you pray for safety?

Christianity is meant to be an adventure. You are meant to live in ways few live to change the world for the better. You aren’t created for safety. Safety is for those who do not need a Savior.

The next time you pray, pray for courage, boldness, strength, power, love, mercy, faithfulness, and other such things that will cause you to live an extraordinary life in Christ, by His Spirit who lives in you. And be adventurous for Jesus.


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.


The Real Easter

ultimate love.jpg

When I was little, I took everything that was taught me as fact. I questioned very little. But when I became an adult, I began to question many things that were being taught to me. Maybe you’re that way too. It’s good to seek the truth.

One of the truths that men throughout the ages have tried to clarify is the truth of what really happened the Sunday after Jesus was crucified. Did He really rise from the dead, or is this just a big hoax? With Easter coming this weekend, I thought it fitting to explore the three options for explanations as to why the tomb was empty on that historic Sunday morning.

Before we begin, however, I need to make one thing clear: I take the bible as a historical document. You can study this for yourself and find out that the bible is as much a historical document as any other document from that time, and there are some things about this book that leave me with no doubt as to it’s authenticity. If you don’t feel the same way, then I’d love to talk with you about that, but that proof is for another article.

The Swoon Theory:
Some people believe that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, rather he fainted and later woke up and escaped unnoticed from the tomb.

The Stolen Body Theory:
Some believe that Jesus did die, but that the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb when the guards weren’t looking. This theory is actually recorded in the bible.

The Resurrection Theory:
Some believe that Jesus did die on the cross, that he was buried in a tomb, and that on the third day, he rose from the grave.

Well, there you have it…the three theories that I know of as to why there was an empty tomb that Sunday morning almost two-thousand years ago.  Without this empty tomb, millions of people have a faith that is useless (1 Corinthians 15).  So what’s the truth?

According to history, a person didn’t die quickly on a cross.  It would take a person upward of 36 hours to die, so the soldier that fateful day would have known that these three men (Jesus, and the two thieves) would not be dead by sundown.  He then made the decision to break their legs to speed up the dying process.  On a cross, you can inhale because your lungs are expanded, but you must push up with your legs to exhale.  He broke the legs of the two thieves, but when he came to Jesus, he saw that Jesus was already dead.  This man dealt with death on a regular basis.  He KNEW if someone was dead or just faking it.  Then, just to be sure, he thrust his spear into the heart of Jesus.  If Jesus hadn’t been dead already (which he was), then this would have been the point of no return.

Suppose Jesus didn’t die and the guard missed his mark (however unlikely that is), Jesus had been through hematidrosis – which is agonizing and weakens the body, and he had been severely flogged and lost copious amounts of blood.  Mark’s gospel records that the stone in front of the tomb was exceedingly large.  Jesus wouldn’t have had the strength to escape from the tomb. Thus the first theory is busted.

Matthew’s gospel records the second theory.  The Jews were concerned that the disciples might do this, so Pilate had the tomb sealed and a detachment of soldiers sent to guard tomb.  The detachment would have probably been 16 soldiers with four in front of the tomb at a time on 6 hour shifts while the other 12 slept.  These soldiers would have been armed and standing close to the stone.  The seal would have been two leather straps cris-crossing the stone with a wax seal at the cross.  The penalty for the guards falling asleep on their watch would have been death.  Thus this story would have been HIGHLY unlikely.  Besides, it would have been difficult for the disciples to roll away the stone without waking the guards even if they were asleep.

Thus the only acceptable solution is the third theory.  Jesus DID rise from the grave.  He was alive!  The bible records that over 500 people saw him after his resurrection.  Because of the resurrection we have hope in Christ.  All of our faith as Christians rests on the fact of the resurrection.

Have you put your trust in this historical event?  Have you been connected to Jesus’ death and resurrection by being baptized (Romans 6)? Do you regularly fellowship with the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:25)? I want to personally invite you to connect with a church that will help you grow in love for Jesus and for his followers.  If you’re in the Four Corners area, would you join us at Aztec church of Christ? We would love to have you be part of our loving family.


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