Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What's Wrong with God?

What has God done to deserve such disinterest from people? How does this disinterest get so deep that it causes such separation between us?

There are three prominent confusions that are causing this. The first confusion is from ascribing the state of the world with the character of God. The second confusion is from ascribing the actions of Christians to the attributes of God. The third is religion.

Let’s talk about the first issue by asking this: What did God ever do to you?

It’s not God who ignores the homeless every day. It’s not God who is a drug addict. It’s not God who was intoxicated and killed your child with His car. It’s not God who filed the divorce papers, or put the cancer in the smoker’s lung, and it’s not God who continually fails to love his girlfriend well, either (no, that’s me).

It’s not God that calls our society to spend more money on Porn than the GDP of 99 countries (http://tiny.cc/j3umlw). It’s not God that ignores the thousands of children that die daily due to a lack of food while we eat our way to obesity related deaths at a similar rate. It’s not God that left thousands of children homeless in our back yards while we build houses with multiple empty rooms. No, this is my fault. This is your fault.

We caused the mess, not God.

Are we puppets with no responsibility? No, He gave us free will and, with that, responsibilities. This isn't the primary reason He gave us free will, which is so he could also give us love. See, love can only exist with free will because making me love you is nothing more than slavery.

You can choose to know him, or you can chose not to know him, but choosing to blame him for what you’ve done with your free will is a clear violation. “How can a God be so loving, yet the world be so evil,” you ask? God’s not evil, we are.

Not only do we put God on the chopping block every time something bad happens in the world, but we then fail to recognize him when something good happens. We managed to turn God into the exact opposite of who He really is: blaming him for the bad we cause, and ignoring him for the abundant good He daily gives.

No wonder people want nothing to do with him.

The second confusion that is causing the deep disinterest in God is because we ascribe the actions of Christians to the attributes of God. Let’s talk about who Christians are for a moment.

Christians are people who trust Jesus as their savior. Therefore, they are people who know they are too imperfect to get to heaven on their own merit. For, how can something imperfect exist somewhere totally perfect? In other words, how can a man like myself, who is clearly not perfect, ever be apart of a perfect place?

Christians are, therefore, people who are inherently bad or broken. Christians are people who were so spiritually bankrupt and dirty that they didn’t just need a helper; they needed a straight up savior. And, not just any man to die to clean up the mess, but God Himself.

People need to judge God not by the actions of his followers, but by looking at their actions and realizing that God, in spite of these sometimes-terrible people, still chose to die for them. God perfectly loves, taking in all who come to him for refuge.

The last confusion that exists is that of Christianity versus religion. Let’s get one thing straight right away:

Christianity is not religion.

Religion is about making much of yourself in order to please God. When we do that we make ourselves the ultimate, which is nothing more than making ourselves God. When we do this we are trying to earn God’s love, but you can’t earn something that’s free. We’ve had millions of tears, thousands of deaths, and hundreds of wars because people wanted to make themselves the ultimate. This is religion, it’s a belief that you can earn God’s favor by making much of yourself, and God hates it.

As I stated earlier, Christianity is about trusting Jesus as your savior. Mind you this:

Trust never exists outside of a relationship and trust has nothing to do with a belief. I can’t believe to a certain degree in order to trust someone. I have to know them before I can believe in them.

Christianity is about a relationship, not a belief. It’s about knowing God and, therefore, experiencing his great love for you. It’s a not a belief that God loves you; it’s experiencing that God loves you. It’s tangible. It’s real. Just like knowing your spouse, or kids, or best friend’s love for you isn’t a result of believing it. It’s gained by experiencing it.

I don’t believe in order to know someone. I either introduce myself or I don’t.

“"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"” -God

All you have to do is use your free will to invite God into your life. Just. Ask. But, don’t look at the world or the people of this world and think God is like them. There’s a reason he came to save and it’s because He’s good. Actually, He’s perfect. We’re the ones that aren't.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fading Fears


I'm sometimes deeply affected by fear. I won't discuss how it manifests itself, but I will share with you why fear exists and how to overcome it. I'll share because you're likely no different than I.

Fear is hard to identify. If it hasn't attached itself to something tangible, fear normally goes unnoticed and, therefore, so does our understanding of it.

As I tried to find the root of my fear I turned to the bible. If you don't read the bible know this:
As you read the bible it begins to read you.
If you want to know more about what's really going on in your head, heart, and soul, or what your motives really are, I urge you to spend some time in His word- and watch the self-realization blinders fall from your eyes.

What I found was this verse in 1 John 4:18:

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."

And, it hit me: I'm afraid because I've been hurt and I don't want to be hurt again.

I've been hurt because I long to be perfectly loved and have been let down. My need for perfect love had never been met, and with it, my ability to fully trust others had slowly dissipated due to the multiple let-downs of this world.

I traced back through my life - which has been filled with an amazing family, great friends, and wonderful girlfriends. But, as phenomenal as the people are in my life, none of them are perfect.

We see glimpses of perfect love in the books and movies. But, that's why we love these stories; they remind our hearts of our unmet deep desires.

Where can I find this perfect love that God tells us about? Turn to Jesus.

See, Jesus loves us perfectly. He calls it "grace" and grace is the exact opposite of imperfect love: it is free, it is not able to be earned, and it manifests itself as perfect love.

This love, shown through grace, is a love that you can feel in your bones. And, it's worth everything because it's better than anything. Namely, anything!

When I'm most afraid in my life it's always related to my relationship with Jesus. when I'm scared it's because I've turned from trusting in God's grace to trusting in imperfect people.

Our name in the bible is "Beloved" meaning: "Be Loved."

Once you know Jesus as your savior, father, brother, and God, you'll experience this perfect love every day of your life. And, it's the infinite, perfect love that you were created to be filled and fulfilled with. This love casts out all fear. This love is perfect.

I urge you into it.

Even now, no matter who you are, what you've done, or where you are, you can know the perfect love your heart aches for by taking a moment to bow down and ask God to show himself to you. Ask him to come into your life. Thigs will never be the same.

If it were not true, would I have told you so?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Egomaniac

I’ve heard talk lately of something that troubles me greatly. I've heard it from the lips of Oprah and I’ve read of the idea in the books of Ayn Rand. I had someone mention it to me over a recent meeting, too.

It’s this belief that any “God” who demands our worship is an egomaniac.

"How can such a self centered, needy, dependent entity be a “God” and how can that type of “God” be equated with love?" I recently got asked.

It is true. God does demand our worship. There are great penalties for those who never end up knowing God and exulting his great glory.

But, here’s the missing link in all this:

God's summoning for our praise is summons for our complete joy. His demand for our worship is a demand for our perfect happiness.

All children are supposed to know their parents and, as children of God, we were created to know our creator as well. As sons and daughters of an infinite God we have an infinite hole in our hearts as long as that relationship remains distant, broken, or absent. How many finite things does it take to fill an infinite hole? You know the answer, and its evident in our non-stop consumeristic lifetyles.

How much of "more" do you need? When is enough enough? Only when enough is everything you were created to experience.

People who say God is an egomaniac are missing the fact that all our needs, desires, and longings are only fulfilled when our relationship with God is restored.

So, his call to enjoy him is a call to be complete.

We are not made to be made much of, we are made to make much of something greater than ourselves. We see this play out every day in our lives: Joy is found during those short moments when we are overcome by something so magnificent that we forget about ourselves. When our fears, insecurities, inabilities, and mistakes are forgotten because a greater beauty or pleasure has overcome us.


See, everything you enjoy in this world is a fractured reflection of it’s absolute fulness- found in God. The fullness of the beauties or pleasures we enjoy in this world are existent in their fullness in God. He created beauty. He created joy. The creation is never better than the creator. Everything we see or experience here is a distant, shadowy mirror of its fullness- found in God.

God demands that we enjoy him are because he demands that we are happy. This is not a egotistic nor egomaniacal. No, this is love.

You’re reading this because God’s pursuing you. You’re the central figure in the greatest love story ever told or that will ever be known. Jesus died so you could know God. Jesus rose so you could have God. You were created for this and you’ll never want nor need nothing more because there is nothing more to acquire.

Oh, that you would experience the love of God. It's free. It's available, no matter who you are, what you've done, or where you're at. Just invite him in.

Monday, July 2, 2012

In Love

Have you ever fallen in love?

For those who have this will sound all too familiar. It's this feeling that comes over you that's undeniable and unmistakable. It's a feeling of need, almost like an addiction: you long for that person to be near, to hear their voice, to see their face, to touch their skin. You trust them, you let them protect you, you get excited when they are around and sad when they're gone. It's like something comes over you, chances your wiring, desires, motives, and focus. You become singularly focused on that person. It's the world's most beautiful thing, when it happens in a healthy way.

This happened to me after a prayer a few years back. It was probably the first prayer I'd said in years. All I asked was: "If you're real, Jesus, I want to know you." 

Then it happened. 

I fell in love. 

Jesus came to me, quenching a deep loneliness that I covered up with sports, girls, money, and jobs.  His presence was overwhelming. For those of you who don't know Jesus it's like mixing the fifty best feelings you've ever experienced all together into one, but that honestly doesn't do the feeling any justice. Truthfully, there is no way to explain it, other than telling you this: 

It's perfect. 

His love, his power, his strength, his care, his provision, his leadership, his humor, his kindness, and his grace overwhelmed me like a river. My soul came alive and felt its full worth. 

Now, no matter what I do, where I go, or what I accomplish, no matter who I meet, who holds my hand, or however much of anything I accumulate - I continually want more of Christ and less of everything else. 

If I were a stronger man I'd fight to only allow things in my life that brought me closer to Jesus. If I were a wiser man I'd only think about things that would bring me closer to Jesus. If I were a better man I'd only do things that brought me closer to Jesus.

But, I continually run from the thing I love the most, but Jesus always chases me back down, shakes me off, says "welcome home," and reminds me that I only love him as a response to the love he already had for me.

If Jesus is not your treasure, then I beg you to pray to God that your heart be changed. That you would see how worthy he is. So, it comes down to this: You can brush this off and call me crazy or you can hit your knees and try to prove me wrong. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Hardest Thing


The Hardest Thing I have to do in my life is love and live around people that don’t know Jesus. 

Honestly, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t find myself overcome with sadness for the loss they can't realize. I'm constantly frustrated with my apparent inability to accurately present just how cool Jesus is. Honestly, He's the coolest. 

I don’t really beat myself up, necessarily, but I do find myself literally begging God to step in (and, sometimes step up...) I’ve been praying for the same people since the moment God conquered my heart by revealing his intimate, tangible love for me...for, us. On top of that God always seems to bring new people into my life I care about - and the process starts over again:

“God, let them know you...please!

I normally find a good moment to share the Gospel with these people, and those closest to me often hear about my love for Jesus; they just don’t know what that means

I’m sure they watch me act much like they do, say things they say, and desire the same things they desire - I’m sure, quite often, too, I don’t reflect a lifestyle that seems different to them, and if it does, it probably doesn’t seem attractive anyway. Aghh..

But, the truth is - My heart yearns for Jesus. My soul literally aches for more of Jesus. I really don’t care if I loose my job, all of my friends, my family, my arms, or anything else this world can give me: All I want is Jesus.

Isn’t that crazy?!

I had a aquintence who has now become a close friend tell me something similar about his love for Jesus. I told him he was weird, crazy, and, to be honest, straight up creepy.

But… then it happened. I got to a point my life where I realized I couldn’t party enough to be fulfilled, couldn’t make money to buy hope, and couldn’t impress enough people to feel secure, so I asked Jesus if He was real. 

I said: "If you're real, I wanna know you."  

Then it happened. Everything changed: All my desires. All my motives. All my goals. 

I realized at that moment, and everyday since, that all that I had was nothing in comparison. As Paul said:
"I count everything as loss because of the surpassing work of knowing Jesus. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain more of Him."

You were created to know Him. That's why you're here. This isn't a mistake; you’re not random. You were fearfully and wonderfully knit together. God loved you enough to give you breath, hope, and a future. He loved you so much it killed his Son. He did all this so you could know Him. 

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” – Psalm 139:14

Ah, Yes; my soul knows it as well. You're reading this because God wants you. He wants you because you need Him. You were created for Him and nothing in this world works if it is used for reasons other than which it was created for. 

You were created for love -  God's perfect love. I'd give you my life in exchange that you would know how overwhelmingly amazing God is... but, I don't have to - Jesus already did. 

And, he did it for you.  Invite Him in.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Finding God

I spend a lot of time and energy trying to explain to people that not only can you know God, but you were created to know Him. You've actually been given life by Him so you could enjoy Him. To the one who hasn't experienced God this sounds crazy. I know, because I was once that person having to deal with people telling me I can know God. But, then it happened to me. Now, I'm telling you.

Look around. The whole of God's creation points to him. The power of a sunset, the scent of a flower, and the peaceful lack of sound when it snows. Every little aspect of beauty in this world is a reflection of the one who embodies beauty. A rainbow, a belly laugh, a long hug from loved one. Even the stars were placed there to dazzle you. Everything good that you hear, see, or feel, are expressions of God's love for you. You were given feelings to feel Him, eyes to see Him, and ears to hear Him.

God is not far. No, He's a thought away. It starts with the thought of how did I get here? Why am I here? Did I just randomly get here and after I put my time in I'll randomly die? No. You were made for so much more. You were made to know your creator. The lover of your soul. He's here. He's waiting for you to seek Him. He gave you freedom to do as you please. Take your freedom toseek God.

The Bible is not just a story, it's God's love letter to us. In the Bible God tells us how to find him. Here are a few verses for you to lean on today:


"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." - Jeremiah 29:13

"I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me." - Proverbs 8:17

"Seek the LORD your God, and you will find him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul." - Deuteronomy 4:29

I write this that you may know that He is real and that He is near. I write this so that you may know He knows everything about you, every thought, every deed and everything you didn't do that you probably should of. I'm writing this to tell you that no matter who you are or who you are not, you're not bigger than God's love. He loves you. And, when you seek Him, He'll come for you. He is right now.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

this isn't about you.


I sin a lot. I struggle the same desires and passions that I have for years, even though I’m now a Christian. When I dwell on my mistakes from the wrong perspective it begins to eat at me and my days become overshadowed with guilt. If you're in the same boat I hope this will help change your perspective.

I ask myself:
Is this what it looks like to have the Holy Spirit living in you?”
The answer is "Yes." But, this isn’t about what I do. It’s about what God did:
He died because I CAN’T  get my act together.

There is nothing I can do, or give, or earn that will help me save myself. I cannot be good enough, I cannot be prayerful enough, I cannot be holy enough. In my sin I am completely separated from God (http://bible.cc/isaiah/59-2.htm) and the only one who has the power to make me right again is the one who judges in the first place - God himself. I mean, what am I going to give the One who already owns everything? How do I replay something I cannot afford?

Thinking I can save myself is like a car thinking it can fix itself. No, the car needs a mechanic. We need our creator. Even the act of repentance (http://tinyurl.com/6vqnxtf) is a result of God’s grace. But, once again, Christianity isn't about me, it's about God. 
  
This is one of the many glorious things about the Gospel. I don’t need a helper, I need a savior. See, God died for me because I have no other hope.  Paul explains it perfectly in Ephesians 2:8-9

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

Did you understand that? You are not going to heaven because of anything you did or are going to do. You are going out of grace. Amazing. Grace. And, if you did something to earn God's grace, it wouldn't be Grace. It would be something you earned. If that were the case, I'd have a reason to dwell in my guilt, but I have a hope. God's grace, which was perfectly given to us through Jesus.

So, stop making Christianity about you. Religion is about what you can do for God, but Christianity is about what God did for you. He gave you grace. It's free, underserved, and available for you right now, no matter what you've done or who you think you are. Because, it doesn't matter what you've done or who you think you are. What matters is what God's done and what He thinks you are.

That's freedom.



Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Scars of Freedom

In my worst moments I am afraid or driven by fear. Afraid of what people will think of me, afraid of being alone, afraid that I'll fail, be exposed, let others down, or never find a wife or have the kids I so badly want. In my worst moments I'm a slave to fear; it owns me and controls my reactions.

If you're introspective enough, you're probably not much different than I am. Last time I had any sort of negative emotion it was built upon a foundation of fear - afraid something bad would happen, afraid I would lose something I valued, or afraid I was going to get hurt or feel shamed.

When this happens to me I know I'm not believing the Gospel. It's a gigantic warning sign going off in my soul that I've gone off track, again. Although I wish I was continually walking in-line with God, I often get off course, and when I do, God always orchestrates events in my life that leave me afraid: warning me to come back to believing His sovereignty and goodness.

See, I don't just like the Gospel or approve of the Gospel; I need the Gospel. I need all the promises that God grants those who put their trust in Jesus. Promises like the one King David also leaned on:

"I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his trouble. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them." - Psalm 34:4-7

See, in my life, this poor man has cried and has been heard and has been saved from many troubles.

This is why I talk to you all about Jesus. It's not a belief, not like you might believe that tomorrow will be a cold day. No, it's a relationship. He has, on countless occasions, heard my pleas and delivered me - just like He did for King David and just like He does for millions of people that cry out to him - daily.

We can count on Jesus to help us overcome our fears because He has full authority over everything (http://tiny.cc/7l25c). To me, The most powerful scripture as it pertains to Jesus fighting on our behalf is Colossians 2:14-15:
"And you were dead in your trespasses, but God made you alive again by forgiving your sins and canceling your record of debt by nailing it to the cross. In doing so He also disarmed the rulers and authorities, putting them to open shame, by triumphing over them through (the life, death, and  resurrection of) Christ Jesus."
If you're engaged and alive this should pierce your world view. What this says above is that anything we've ever done to make us feel guilty, afraid, or shameful has been nullified and disarmed. 
It was nailed to a cross: It died with Jesus.
Then, when he rose again, all evil was disarmed and triumphed over. Meaning the negative things in this world, namely fear, no longer have the authority to be your master.

In knowing Christ, you are free. Free from shame. Free from embarrassment.
Free from Fear.

As my favorite Hillsong United song "Take my Heart" put's it: "He wears the scars of our freedom."



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Self - Esteemed

Every day I watch people do things they don't like to do to impress people they don't even like. We're 100% focused on ourselves, obsessed with what we'll wear, what we'll say, who we'll date, how we look, what our Facebook profiles look like, and what other people think. We're consumed and fixated with ourselves.

Of course no one really cares that the world is crumbling. I'm not even going to waste the time it takes type a paragraph explaining how shitty things really are. If I did you might feel a bit of sadness, but your chief concern will ultimately revert back to your personal needs and how you can best portray yourself to the world today.

 Here's the problem: This world isn't about you and you'll never feel fulfilled until you get outside of yourself. You weren't created to fix yourself and you weren't created to be your ultimate. In other words - you weren't created to be the God of your own life.

 One of the biggest lies in America is that strength, change, and power are all found within. Proven by the millions of self-help books and Oprah episodes viewed; most people think they need to look within themselves for the answers in life.

 You're being deceived.

 We live in a dualistic world. To truly understand the cold of a Minnesota winter you must experience the heat of a southern summer. To truly understand how small you are, you must stand before something great. You simply cannot know anything completely without a point of reference.

 People who think they are "good people" always refer to their lack of jail time, fights, or general amount other "good" friends. They never refer to the amount of help they give to people in need, times they put other's first, or amount of energy they spend on someone other than themselves.

 Here's the main point: until God is your reference point you're always going to be missing part of the truth- and if part of the truth is missing I say you have no truth at all.

Until God is your reference, you'll be stuck trying to fix your own problems, rationalise your own truth, and finding your own way. There are thousands of people who scoff at the idea that they are lost, but that's because they have no clue where they are supposed to be going. They look inside themselves for truth. They are their own point of reference. When that's the case you can rationalize any behavior.

 I'm willing to bet (which is why I'm writing this) that there's a voice inside you trying to get your attention. Maybe you're like me and you've done everything possible to drown that voice out because you don't know what else your supposed to do with your time or where you're supposed to go next. You just keep going.

 I'm inviting you to stop going and start coming.

The lack of answers you've found is because you keep going to yourself instead of coming to God. You are not your God. You are not supposed to be your own point of reference. Instead, ask God to be your point of reference. Ask Him what truth is. Ask Him to change your point of reference. Ask God to reveal Himself. Tell Him you need help. If you don't believe God exists then I'm willing to bet you haven't spent any serious time looking for Him. I invite you today to look.

 "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. For, I have come for you so you might have life, and that you might have it abundantly." -God

Monday, October 31, 2011

Promised Love

It’s been a while since I last posted. A lot has gone on… a lot. I moved across the country, back home to start a new job and be more near my family. I left what I now see as the greatest community of believers a man could ask for. Men that loved me well enough to ask the hard questions and expect out of me what God expects out of me – to be the man I was created to be.

The change in life has certainly brought about a lot of struggles. It’s easy to get lost when you start wondering around. If you’re not careful you’ll forget who you are and give into who the world tells you you are.

But then we, as believers, get reminded of the promise. If we pay enough attention I’m quite sure we get reminded daily. See, if you’re children of the covenant, then you’re part of the greatest promise in the world – indeed the only promise that really matters. And, it's a promise that can't be broken because it's already been paid for.

Thousands of years ago God promised Abraham that he’d be the God of his offspring:

“And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you" -Genesis 17:7-8.

This is critical. I urge you to not brush it off. See, for God to say he’s going to make an ever-lasting covenant with a people means that people will never die. This relationship is a saving relationship. That’s why Jesus said “I am the God of the living,” because God does not die and, therefore, God’s people do not die. For, how do you have an ever-lasting relationship with someone who is dead?

Also of unparalleled importance is to notice that God says He's going to do it. He's going to supply the necessary means to make this happen. This is one of the first hints of grace. God made the promise and it had 0% to do with what Abraham did or did not do. Matter of fact, Abraham was 99 years old when he had that child. Abraham had no children at that point because his wife had been baren her whole life. And, by the way, you can easily trace that lineage down to a man named Joseph, who was the (earthy) father of Jesus.

See, I’m saved not because I’m a good man. I’m not a good man. If I were a good man I wouldn’t need a savior. I long to be a better man, but I screw up a lot. And, for those of you who think you're good to go already, please read this: http://tiny.cc/gmfga

But, God made a promise, and a promise is only as good as the one who gives it. God not only made the promise but also paid for the promise in full he destroyed the power of death by rising again.

And, he did it for me. He did it for you. See, it’s not some weird belief. Faith isn’t something I can talk you into. But, I can ask. See what happens when you ask God to reveal himself. See what happens when you seek God out. See what happens in your life when you invite a wholly awesome, perfect, infinite God into it. Things will never be the same. And, you'll thank God for that.

“Yet to all who received me, to those who believed in me, I give the right to become children of God” – Jesus Messiah

It’s the greatest love story in the world. Call me crazy, scoff all you want but, the bigger fool is he who decides what he sees before he even takes a look.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I'm a thief

I had a discussion with middle-aged man not too many days ago. His face turned to sorrow as his mind began to recall all the terrible things he'd said, people he'd hurt, and lives he'd ruined - most prominently, his own.

I explained to him the hope God. We talked about how the greatest thing a man can do for another person is to die in their place, and how, out of love, that's exactly what God did for us. Not some average, ordinary man, but an all powerful, sovereign God.

I explained to him how we were created to know and enjoy the goodness of God, but how we've all decided to be our own God instead. We've decided in our own hearts what truth is and what our lives should look like. We took the first commandment and gave it the finger.

"I've done too much to be forgiven though" he bluntly stated, as his eyes sank to his feet in sadness.

Most people I know are either too good or too bad to be saved. They make their own moral resumes ultimate, putting who they think they are over who God says they are.

This guy didn’t get it and I wonder - do you?

When Jesus died he was in the middle of two men. Both were thieves. The man on the left of Christ looked at Jesus and said "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."

This was more than just a sentence. This was a thief recognizing who his Lord was and realizing he needed to be saved.

What's amazing about this is that the thief had nothing to offer. He lived a life that was so reckless and sinful that his last moments on earth left him pinned to an old piece of wood with rusty nails. But, salvation isn't about who we are or what we do.

That's the beauty of the Gospel.

It's not about works. The thief had moments of life left. He wasn't coming down from that cross to start an orphanage or pray for the homeless. He was never going to love someone selflessly or become a servant to the needy. He was nobody and had nothing... outside of a dominant, pursuant, loving God.

We are justified by what God has done and who he is, not the other way around. This isn't about you. It’s about an infinite God's infinite mercy. You can't out do God. You're not ultimate. God is. His love is. His grace is.

You can be part of the greatest love story ever told: An infinite, perfect God giving up his life for a finite, selfish, undeserving people.

See, I'm a thief too. And, so are you.

Here are words from one of my favorite songs, written in 1779.

There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in His day;
And there have I, though vile as he,
Washed all my sins away.

- William Cowper

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not a Prayer in Hell.

We don't learn to love someone without changing. In isolation the human heart's ability to prosper and grow becomes stagnant. We were created for community, interaction, engagement, discussion, and relationships. This is one of the many reasons we were born into families, and not left by our parents... like turtles.

We need other's because were created by a Triune God (http://tiny.cc/fva22) who, except for the 3 days after Jesus' death on the cross, has enjoyed perfect community for all time. The Trinity makes it's first appearance in the creation description of Genesis in chapter 1 verse 26 in a very dynamic and powerful way; not only declaring that man was made in God's image and likeness, but just as important, using the plural form "Our" (http://tiny.cc/s2am3). Hence, the Triune God of the Father, Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.

But, this post isn't about my thoughts toward how man was created. Instead, it's about relationships and why we need personal, intimate interactions to ever truly prosper as humans. Therefore, this is a blog on Prayer.

How am I making a connection from personal relationship to prayer? Easy. Prayer is the medium in which we talk to our creator. This is how we have a personal relationship with God. Notice the word personal.

This is made possible only because of Jesus. He died to tear the viel, to take our sin, and give us full intimacy and access to God. We no longer need a priest, we are no longer separated because of our imperfections. Jesus spent 3 days in Hell on our behalf. So, now, we get to enjoy God. Yes. Enjoy God, which I believe, as do many others (http://tiny.cc/oroyc), is our purpose here on Earth.

Now, back to prayer... How do we have a relationship with God? Well, think of your wife (or girl/boy friend, or favorite person) and imaging how fruitful your relationship would be with that person if you never talked, discussed, engaged, interacted, or fought. Pretty bad relationship? Same with God. And yes, I said fought. Some of my most fruitful interactions with God have been after I've unleashed on him for not giving me what I wanted (Thank God He didn't...). God knows what's in my heart, how I would react, and that I'm so pissed off. He can handle it. He created pissed off. He's not taked by surprise.

What God wants is a relationship. You don't have to get all dressed up or have your stuff together to come before God. Jesus already did that for you. Plus, you'll never have your stuff together enough to be perfect, which is how you need to be in order to be in God's presence (this is why you come in the name of Jesus - he is YOUR righteousness before God). Matter of fact, when you stop trying to control your life and instead allow your anxieties and problems to bring you before God in prayer, you'll shift from worrying to watching. This is when life becomes fun.

Oh, and God doesn't need a relationship with you. He actually doesn't need anything from you. And, to be honest, we don't have anything we can actually offer God. Instead, God wants a relationship with you because it's what's best for you. God's goodness is overflowing, and he's allowing you a chance to share in the riches. It's beautiful. And, it's true.

As you begin to approach God more openly, honestly, humbly, helplessly, you begin to really interact with Him and get to know Him, and in doing so, you begin to understand yourself. This process will begin to change you. More specifically, He will change you. Same with the bible. As you start to read the bible, it starts to read you.

I've often hear the argument from self determined, individualistic individuals who say they don't need God because they aren't weak. I call that foolishness. Foolish because any basic attentiveness to life should breed the realization that we don't really have any control in the first place. I'm actually willing to bet that no one reading this has had their life turn out like they planned it. It might be better, it might be worse, but no one has the control they think they do. That's part of being under control of a sovereign God. Only Jesus' life was as He had planned it and that's because Jesus is the most dependent person to ever live. I long to be that dependent. But, depending on God isn't a weakness, it's hope, and as Andy Dufresne says, "Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies (http://tiny.cc/pmfth)."

Our hope is in the fact that God loves us. Our hope is in the fact that God hears us because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross (http://tiny.cc/kfc7i). We are now sons and daughters of a God who has full authority over heaven and earth, who knows the hairs on your head, and loves you perfectly, with an unfailing love. He loves you more than you love yourself. He hears our prays, interacts with us, and makes our way straight. It's intimate. It's humbling.

Being in community with God and praying that His good and perfect will be done in our lives is the best kind of control possible. It's like walking on your own, but having your father's strong hand make sure you don't walk the wrong way. You weren't created to do life a lone. You were created to be known and loved by God. That's an infinite hole in your life because you were created to know and enjoy an infinite God. How many finite items will it take to find fullness if you decide to continue rejecting the gospel (http://tiny.cc/k3ctr)?

I've said prayers and watched miracles happen more times than I have time to write. I've literally seen blind people see, I've watched my own heart's desires change instantaneously, I've watched prayer turn tears and shaking into smiles and laughter, desperate circumstances into peace-filled experiences. I've honestly watched clouds part after prayer or rain begin after a heavenly appeal. I can still see the brilliant smile of a woman who had 8 years of constant menstruation suddenly stop after prayer. I've even watched a collapsed lung fill with air in response to prayer. I've seen God move in response to prayer so many times it often becomes so standard that I have to repent for my apathy toward the miracle. But, the greatest reaction to prayer is the relationship, trust, and community that develops between my heavenly father and myself.

" I love the Lord, because he listens to my prayers for help. He paid attention to me, so I will call to him for help as long as I live"
-Psalm 116

I see Jesus every day. Telling me He's not who he says he is (http://tiny.cc/w4dhx) is like telling me the sunshine doesn't exist or that I'm not breathing. It's saddens me to think of the 24 years I spent without knowing God. It was, in comparison, Hell on Earth.

But, someone told me I could know God. I was told that my screw-ups, dunken nights, lies, and wretched lifestyle would be fully forgiven. I was told that God came to take the penalty I deserved for my rebellion. For living life as I wanted to live it, not as I was created to live it.

The hardest pains in life are the type we can't see, originating in places we can't reach, resulting in symptoms we can't completely describe. If you're reading this two things are happening. One, you're getting a chance to come to Jesus and know the one true, living God. Second, God's asking to heal your pains. The lies, the cruelty, the hurt. Only God knows the intricacies of the human soul because He "fearfully and wonderfully knit us together." Let him in. That's when life begins and I'd give my life so you could know it.

"Come to me all you people that are tired and have heavy burdens. I will give you rest." - Jesus, Messiah.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Foolishness

I might be the biggest fool in the world.

Maybe the path of life really is to do whatever I desire and then just Google an internet article or rationalize rationale until I can justify my actions and my conscience.

Maybe there isn't an absolute truth and we're just randomly here until we randomly die.

Maybe I'm blowing it by giving my life to Jesus. Maybe he was just a carpenter. Maybe he never rose from the dead.

Maybe I should go back to drowning out the voice that's screaming inside me (it's inside you too) that we were made for so much more - more of whatever it is we're trading in our flicker of time to do, have, or accomplish.

Maybe I didn't look hard enough and there is some amount of money or accomplishment that will love me back.

I think about that sometimes. What if Jesus isn't who he said he was? What if I've bought a lie? What if, instead, life really is found in collecting things, working my way up an invisible corporate ladder, and trying to get as many people as possible to think I'm cool.

Maybe I'm what is wrong with the world because I've given my whole life to a lie and now I’m spending it sending people astray.

Maybe Jesus isn't who He said He was. Maybe He didn't rise from the dead and he's just randomly the only important historic figure whose gravesite we can't locate.

What if the Jewish religion is correct and I’m supposed to be waiting for a different savior to come. Am I then a fool?

No, it's way, way worse that that. It doesn't get any worse than that.

There were over 400 verses about Jesus in the Old Testament - the Jewish book. Verses of how God would send a savior, he would be rejected by his people, die and rise again in three days. My favorite prophecy is found here (http://tinyurl.com/452jxby) and is written by one of the most well known Jewish Prophets.

Maybe Isaiah was talking about someone else and Jesus is just a huge misunderstanding or coincidence.

On this Sunday over 2,000 years ago Luke, who was a doctor that personally knew Jesus, wrote this passage. It is now found in the bible:

"The morning of His death they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, and when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”

The people of that day knew the scriptures inside and out. They knew every verse that pointed to a coming Messiah, but they didn’t believe it was Jesus.

Are you in the same boat? Is this Jesus thing a big fairy tale?

A few days before Jesus died he said:
"We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life."

These were the same people that witnessed so many miracles that Jesus performed that John later tell us that: “If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” He laid everything out for them, but they still didn't believe.

I was like these people for so many years. I plead with you - don't waste your life like I did.

Think of it this way: If thousand of other Christians, as well as myself, are fools because Jesus wasn't the Savior of the world... If Jesus really didn't rise from the dead... if Easter really is about rabbits and eggs...Then how did a mere carpenter two thousand years ago change the entire world?

As Napoleon Bonaparte said:

"I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him."

After Jesus rose from the grave, thus making a mockery of death, he appeared to over 500 people over the next 40 days. He let a multitude of people touch the holes in his hands and see the scars on his back. He went to every possible length to make sure they had a chance to know Him.

He's doing the same with you. He even led you to my blog.

Someday you'lll stand before Jesus. You'll see the scars on the back, the holes in His hands, and the wound in His right side, just like the five hundred and millions upon millions that have already gone before us have seen.

You'll see that God poured all the judgment we deserve onto his only, sinless son. He did it to for you. To reconcile you to himself. To have you, to know you, to look after you, to love on you.

I pray. I write. I live. All in hopes that you'll see have your face-to-face interaction with God today, and not after death swallows you up.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." He wants you to know that you were created to know Him. To enjoy Him. To experience him. If he's lying, then I'm a fool. But, if Jesus is who He said he was. Then you are much worse off than being a mere fool.

If you read the scriptures they will start to read you. Let me say that again. If you read the scriptures, they will start to read you.

Take God's invitation to be His son or daughter. To be adapted into His Holy, Eternal Family:

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." - John 1:12

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”" - Romans 10: 9-13

I implore you: Believe. Believe and you will see. This, God promises you.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Faithfulness

If you believe a chair will hold you up you are left with just that: a theory that a chair will hold you up. Believing in something is just a theory and theories don't produce fruit, action, or results. They are quite meaningless as far as impact is concerned. Believing a chair will hold you up doesn't cause you to go sit and experience the chair.

To trust something is everything. To trust something you've had to experience it. Trust breeds knowledge, freedom, experience, and action.

If you trust that a chair will hold you up then you get action because you're willing to sit in the chair and experience it. From that moment everything between you and the chair changes. Now you understand how the chair works, you trust the chair - you're always willing to sit in it. Trusting in something produces action, movement, and a tangible truth that will always be relevant and meaningful.

I don't know where you're at. Maybe you hate God, maybe you don't think He exists, maybe you don't care, or maybe you claim to know of Him. I've lived a portion of my life in each reality. No matter where you are, I pray, hope, and long that you can experience what it feels like to trust Him. It's better than anything this world has to offer you. This is life. I promise.

Most of the people I know go to church or would say they are a Christain, but they don't trust God. There's a difference between believing in God and trusting God. Once produces fruit and the other doesn't. One produces action, and the other a dead theory. I long for you to trust God.

How?

That's the hard part. The past few weeks have been the hardest weeks of my life. All my "security" fell through. My job, my car, my computer, my income, my career...everything had been taken away from me. I was left unemployed and lost.

But, I've received more life than I've ever experienced and never before have I been as happy as I am now. Never.

Why? I've been FORCED to trust God. In the Old Testamant the Jews used to build alters whenever God proved to be faithful (which was all the time), because they knew they are a people that forget easily. So are we.

I don't want to forget. I want to remember. I want to remember how faithful God has been. How every one of his promises in the Old Testament has come true and how every promise int he New Testamant is coming true in my life - Every. Day.

So, here are just a few things that have happened the past two weeks.

Praying I wouldn't be shamed during a job interview I didn't prepare for, I ended up making it to the last round. I felt encouraged and affirmed. Responses were coming out of my mouth in such a way that I was reminded of Luke 12:12 (http://tiny.cc/ve677).

I prayed over the lunch break that I would NOT get the job offer that I figured was coming because the interview was going so well because I didn't trust in my own ability to turn down a six figure salary. I didn't get the job. It was a peace I've never experienced before. I rejoiced.

I prayed God would raise up someone to move into my house and rent it for at least what I paid for it. One hour later there was a letter in my mailbox from a family that said they felt like God was calling them to my neighborhood and wanted to know if I was interested in renting my house out. They move in on April 15th.

I prayed God would raise up someone to donate me a car because I can't afford the one I bought before I lost my job and I need to sell it. Today at lunch someone said they felt like God was calling them to donate me their car.

There's about fifteen other significant prayers that have been answered the past few weeks. I've experienced  Jerm.29:11 (http://tiny.cc/4ogc3) come true over and over..

I love how he's brought me so LOW that I've HAD to trust him because forever I have the pleasure, security, and knowledge to TRUST that God's word, his promises, his LOVE LETTER called the bible is true. He died on a tree to prove it. He did it for me. He did it for you. He freaking loves us.

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Psalm 33:4
4 For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

Psalm 36:5
5 Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.

Psalm 86:15
15 But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Psalm 89:1
1 I will sing of the LORD's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.

Psalm 89:8
8 O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you.

Psalm 91:3-6
3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

Psalm 108:4
4 For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Psalm 115:1
1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.

Psalm 143:1
1 O LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief

Lamentations 3:22-23
22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Romans 3:3-4
3 What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? 4 Not at all!

1 Corinthians 1:9
9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

1 Corinthians 10:13
13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

1 John 1:9
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
-------------------------

I'm not crazy. Jesus is real. He's a live and you're reading this right now because he wants to intervene in your life and be your rock, your security, your peace. Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth, and the light."

If He's telling the truth and you miss this...what then?

I don't believe this, I trust this. I don't believe Jesus. I trust Him. And here's the best part about a relationship with Jesus:

"I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39

You want beauty? You want life? You want wisdom? You want security?

"The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and trust in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." - Romans 10:8-10

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Treasure of Pain

As Americans we've been lied to. We've been told that to be happy is to be made much of. Therefore, we live with a great fortitude and determination to build happiness. Which is mainly acted out in a very simplistic fasion: To avoid pain.

We rarely take risks, unless the risk itself will benefit our facade or our brand. But, if the motivation for our risk taking is purely to benefit our image or our good standing then it's more manipulation than it is risk. True risk is only done with selfless motivation. But, that's a subject for another time.

Have you noticed that no one takes the hard road? When our lives aren't what we need them to be for others to exalt us, we move, quit, or start over. We immediately put all our energy into protecting our reputation - then we do everything within our power to avoid any and all pain.

It's not to gain pleasure or joy that we drink too much, smoke pot, progress to harder drugs, cutting, anorexia, spend hours of our lives playing video games, or sleep around. It's to avoid pain and this is the road most traveled by our generation because it is the easiest road to travel. The problem is this:

You can't experience growth without pain, and without growth there is no life.

That does mean you pursue pain to experience life, it means you steward it. But this can only be done if you understand how loved you are and who you were created to be. This is critical, otherwise there's no hope.
The son or daughter of the only true God -"Fearfully and wonderfully woven together" (Psalm 139:14).

If you know in your heart (not just your theologically astute head) that you're perfectly loved by an awesome, omniscient, and sovereign God, then you're able to steward pain because prefect love casts out fear. You don't have to fear that pain.

See, God isn't holding out on you. He never has. He's trying to get your attention because he has so much better for you. He promised good. And, he died to fulfill that promise.

See, our Earthly pleasures are a hint of what's to come in heaven. The peace, joy, laughter, and rest we enjoy on earth is not only an echo, but proof of what's to come next.

I don't think God's will for your life involves what you do for a living, where you live, or what you accomplish. God's will for your life is to discover who you were created to be and be that person wherever you are, because when you discover who you were created to be you start to come alive, and then, and only then, do you experience life instead of just live it.

Ask God what's he's trying to birth in your heart. For, if our hearts stop growing we are already dead anyway.

Don't run from pain. Steward the treasure.