Monday, September 7, 2015

Actively Dormant

This will be the last post for this blog, as I am finally making a big life-change. I am grateful for the many topics God has inspired me to write about in the last few years, and I realize that they could go on forever, just as the awesomeness of God is never-ending! As a farewell, I would just like to encourage us all to continue dwelling on the goodness of God's character and applying his attributes and commands to our daily walk. That's right, not just once a week, but every day, because God is good and understanding His truth should never be limited to a Sunday gathering or blog post!

For all of you nature-lovers reading this, I have a question. Why is it so easy to feel a special peace and closeness to God when outside in His beautiful, wild creation? Perhaps because there is nothing in the way, nothing tainting the glory of His image in the things He has created! Think about it: we are His creation just as much as Yellowstone National Park is His creation! And more than that, we are His  very beautiful creation in our own way because everything God creates is made in His image! So why is it so tough to see the beauty in ugly, sinful, broken people? Why are we supposed to see it in all people?

For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.
~Hebrews 3:4 (ESV)

During my senior year of high school, God totally hit me with the realization of His love for all people. And it's not like there was anything that caused it, any big turn of events in my life that kickstarted my viewing of people in a different way. No. It just happened on the bus one day. I realized that even those (sometimes especially those) who don't yet believe in God can be amazing representations of His creativity and glory. God loves and beautifully creates all people as an equally amazing (if flawed) representation of Himself. To realize and strive to treat all people equally with that truth in mind is, I believe, a discipline and a gift. It is true that God wants us to see the potential in every person to become a beautiful work of grace, fully devoted to Christ, but it is also  true that He wants us to see where that potential lies actively dormant in every person. The creation glorifies its creator without even trying because it was created by Him, so how much more would the creation glorify its creator if it realized Him and openly confessed, giving praise and worship back to Him through every creative means possible!

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.
~Romans 12:6 (ESV)

So when we find ourselves in awe of God's creation, even at Yellowstone National Park, we must understand that the creation we see as beautiful is not, in itself, God. It is a glimpse of a greater beauty. It should be a motivation to give glory to God rather than a place to live forever. We must believe that God is more magnificent than anything we might experience down here, because when we do, we can live with that truth in mind. We can live in constant expectation for something greater. We can use the beauty we see now as an inspiration to push on to good works, fighting for the salvation of others that might open their eyes to the same beautiful realization. Let the fire never be kept hidden, but let it burn bright for all to see both its glory and it's source: Jesus Christ!

For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name! ~Amos 4:13 (ESV)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Growing the Family

"To know God deeply is to love God wholeheartedly" ~David Platt

Basically, the more we know about God, the more we know God. The more we know God, the more we love God. And the more we love God, the more we will do for God. In the end, God gets all the glory. Everything is done for Him. So as long as we have the attitude of doing whatever it is we do for Him by His strength, productivity will continue to peak. It's only when we forget the mission and our all-out devotion to Him that we become satisfied living with Him rather than living for Him. There is no room for self when you are living your life for Christ.

As one of our pastors put it this morning:

The typical Christian is like a child who receives a command from her father to clean her room. Instead of cleaning her room, she comes back to her father having memorized his command, made his words into a song, and invited her friends over to study and celebrate every bit of the command he gave, without ever really obeying it.

Being a disciple of Jesus means being a disciple-maker. If you aren't praying and looking for opportunities to grow the family of God, then you are no longer on fire for Him. You may be on fire for His good attributes and promises, but not for His ultimate glory and not for his desire and vision for your own potential in serving Him. When you love God with your words instead of your actions, you declare that there is something else that satisfies you more than Him. You declare that God's calling of service toward Him is not the highest calling there is.

It is important to remember that God does not want us to respond to his love simply by enjoying Him, but by seeking the even higher joy of serving Him and spreading His gospel to all nations. Without Christ in our lives, we were once on the road to death, and without Christ in others' lives, many are still on that road. So even though worship via music, reflection, fellowship, or memorization and study may be God glorifying and beneficial, let us never forget the urgency of the mission we have been called to on top of all that. Let us never forget that there are still billions of lives at stake and thus billions of opportunities to glorify God even more.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Following the Leader

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. ~Luke 22:54-55 (ESV)

Did you catch that? Peter was following Jesus even after He had been arrested. Only thing is, he got distracted and fearful and decided to blend in with the crowd by sitting with them around the fire. This is representative of how we can be following Jesus and suddenly find ourselves in a worldly mindset that promotes the denial of a personal savior. We might get up in the morning and commit the day to following Christ, but then allow it to slip from our grasp as we get involved in school, work, TV, hanging out with friends, etc. This is especially significant right now as we have so many things that we are surrounded with throughout the day that are made specifically for distraction and self-indulgence. What Jesus wants for us, however, is so much more. He understands that following Him will be a struggle, but that's why He offers a peace that passes all understanding and a passionate desire for His glory that, when practiced, far outweighs the temporary distractions of this world.

Nothing can separate us from the love God has for us. That's a sure shot. A done deal. So how about the flip-side of that? What can separate us from the love we have for God? Can life or death? Angels or demons? Friends or co-workers? Social media or TV? Laziness or...even something good, like ministry? The answer is yes. Our lack of ability to remain true to God 24/7 shows more clearly the unchanging quality of God's steadfast love toward us. And that's why Romans 12:2 is so important:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

Staying on track with God requires constant renewal. Whenever we dive back into God's truth throughout the day--whatever format that might encompass--there occurs in us a transformation that sets us apart from the ways of the world. God loves to grant us His strength and peace in order that we might live more like Him. All we have to do is remember to follow Christ and return to His path again and again by allowing Him to lead us back when we turn aside. Jesus is, after all, the only leader worth following!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ocular Transplant

"If I could see you more, then I could love You more."
~Rivers & Robots (I did a video of this song here)

It seems a little blasphemous at first, when applied to God, but it's totally true that the less you see and interact with your friends (even your closest friends), the less you are able to love them. Now, there are times when you haven't seen a friend in forever and would die just to give them a big hug and hang out for a couple of hours, but the reason this kind of longing differs from the longing we feel for God can be explain in two ways:

1) When we long to "hang out" with and talk to God, we never have to go anywhere or sacrifice anything but time in order to do it. As for anyone else, being able to converse and interact with them can never be guaranteed, and certainly is not as instantaneous as our connection to God's perfect WiFi!

2) Our love for God should be so much more than friendly feelings and emotional conversations or worship sessions. If us loving God means we live and work and breathe and sacrifice everything for Him on a daily basis regardless of how well we can see or perceive Him, then being able to see Him more and know and understand His amazing attributes will only add to our ability to love Him by allowing us to absolutely enjoy whatever calling it is that He has placed on our lives.

So there is also an aspect of seeking God that is just as important. If we tried to do everything we could (e.g. placed ourselves in beautiful settings, trained our minds to "think only good thoughts," memorized a million Psalms, etc.) to find God more during the hard times, then it would definitely help, but it would also fail. It would help because God desires us to put effort into our faith, adding to it things like knowledge, godliness, and love, but it would fail because relying on our own ability to see God is futile. God wants us to seek Him and ask that He transplant our human eyes to give us heavenly eyes of wisdom and divine appreciation. Only then can we be assured of the hope of glory promised to those who believe.

"The more I seek you, the more I find you; the more I find you, the more I love you"

Monday, August 3, 2015

Wholehearted Worship

Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly. Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

“But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.” ~1 Chronicles 29:9-19 (ESV)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Live Long, Die Fast

"You can be saved by believing, but don't just stop there, allow God to use you to advance His Kingdom! Our time is short, so live long and die fast!" ~Jake Thornton

Live long and die fast? Talk about a walking oxymoron! There are actually two beneficial ways of dying fast, however, and most people don't realize how satisfying (at least in theory) these kinds of deaths can be. One way is to die to self and live for Christ. This is a daily denial that requires us to focus on a different kind of joy, whether it can be found in the present or in the promised and hoped-for future. The second kind of death is literal. John 15:13 says that dying for a friend is the greatest example of love. When we die for Christ--both literally and metaphorically--it proves to Him the extent of our love and devotion. It also guarantees a place for us in God's presence. Of course, one of those deaths guarantees that it a bit quicker than the other!

Longing for Heaven and the fullness of God's presence is a good thing. Longing to die in order to get there quicker, however, is a good thought, but somewhat contrary to the teachings of Jesus. We are called to be patient for that day, using our anticipation of it to the advantage of the Kingdom of God. Hope is a powerful attribute for the Christ-follower, and it doesn't support cutting the line or wasting time.

Ministry should never allow for the luxury of time when eternity is on the line.

As lovers of God, we are called to bring as many with us into the next life as we can, that He can be glorified that much more. And, of course, never should we forget that "bringing others" to Him is not something we can do alone. Only God's Spirit and grace can motivate dry bones to walk, and only by the strength of the un-tamable One can we continue on through the trials His calling will undoubtedly bring us!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Where You Going Bro?

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. ~Proverbs 13:20 (ESV)

Do you remember the phrase "You are the average of the friends you hang out with most?" Well, here is a new way to think about it.

You should choose to walk with who you want to walk like. In life, there are only two kinds of walkers: those who walk toward the light and those who walk toward the darkness. Each of those kinds of people will walk in a way that will get them to where they are going. They will also walk alongside those who have the same goal in mind, especially if they themselves don't want to admit their desired goal. So the logical choice would be 1) to acquire the most appropriate dress for getting yourself where you want to go and 2) to find none but the best tour guide to follow and mimic as you go there. So in the end, it comes down to whether or not you are scared of the next life and the consequences your time on earth might have when you get there. It also comes down to whether or not you trust Jesus enough. If you don't want to walk like Jesus in every way, then you probably don't trust that His way is the best and most enjoyable way. I am not saying that you can walk like Jesus in every way. In fact, it's impossible. What you should have, however, is a desire to be like Him because you realize that Jesus may well have been the happiest man on earth! And certainly, that does not mean the path of life in Christ is easy or fun. It means that satisfaction is found not in moment-to-moment comforts and pleasures but in eternal purpose and divine identity.

"Those who long to be with God long to be like God." ~Henry Morris III

So the gist of it all is that in searching out the most satisfactory way of getting through this life, you will never in all your days or ways of walking find a more comforting tour guide, mentor, friend, father, and God than Jesus Christ. And if you currently do not have the desire to walk like Him in every way possible, then it might be time to confront Him about it. God promises His peace to those who seek it, and He offers nothing but the best to those who long to find it: Himself!

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. ~1 John 2:4-6 (ESV)