Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baby Blocks and Wheat Bread

Throughout my life God has really taught me many things but one sticks out in particular.  Life in Christ is the best life..period.  Nothing we can think up, devise, or emphasize is better than what God has already laid out for us.  In fact they don't even come close.  And I am not saying that my life is perfect but God has blessed me with so many things and with so many people.  He has allowed me to experience the joy, wonder, thrill, challenge, comfort, and love that exists within a Christian community.  John 10:10 says,  "But I have come to give you life and life to the full."  If there is one misconception that I would love to see changed, is that Christianity is boring, or restricted form of life and therefore of a lesser quality.

Throughout the Bible God gives us many rules, commandments, and guidelines.  To many, especially after comparing the life of the world, these seem very restricting.  Why is it that God set all these guidelines? The easy answer is to say, so that we can be saved, or so we can get closer to God.  We sometimes fail to see or admit that God tells us these things, because in doing them, we will have a better life.  He loves us and wants us to find joy, peace, happiness, and has given us the answer of how to find it.   For with out a doubt this is what human beings, since the beginning of time, have been seeking after; true happiness and fulfillment for our existence.

I like to use a silly example to explain how this plays out.  Imagine one of those baby block toys, the ones where the triangle fits into the triangle hole, and the circle fits into the circle whole.  Now we are the triangle piece, and we have gotten it into our heads that we if only we can fit into the circle hole everything we will be good.  And just like a baby we start jamming, twisting, and turning that piece, to try and fit it.  But no matter what we do it just doesn't seem to work.  Negative consequences result in our lives when we try and fit into someplace we were not created to fit into.  We become helpless, we hurt ourselves and other people, anger becomes a problem, depression could result, and at the very least we never fulfill our life's true potential and end up living in some sort of half life.  God, just like a parent, is watching and shaking his head.  He created us and because He created us he also know what will truly fulfill us, and bring us happiness. He has given us instructions, and continues to tell us to try it His way.  He does know what is best for us, because he created us, and because He loves us.  Life apart from Christ is no life at all for we are still dead in our sins.  God did not send Jesus to only give us eternal life, but so that we can have the same life here on Earth as well.  For as Christians we are already apart of his Kingdom. 

The life he has for us is spectacular.  Relationships take on a whole new level of openness and trust.  We feel connected to God and others in a way that is sometimes unbelievable. The body of Christ, the church of God, is supposed to be the kingdom come.  This kingdom is full of everything that is good, where relationships are real and fulfilling.  No gossip, no vainness,  no grudges are present.  The fruits of the spirit abound and are an integral part of this perfect Kingdom.  Conflicts are handled in a mature and Godly way so that the truth can be revealed in the situation.  In regards to the world, life in Christ gives us freedom.  Before Christ we find ourselves in bondage to the world, to expectations, to success, to our selfish desires.  This abundant life, and the transformation of our souls gives us freedom from the shackles that hold us.  Activities can be enjoyed for the sake of enjoyment instead using them for a means to an end. An end that is usually selfishly motivated. Conversations, and interactions with others no longer revolve around impression, or manipulation.   Of course this is speaking in absolutes and the Kingdom won't be complete until Jesus comes again; but striving to bring this Kingdom is what gives us the closest to that abundant life that we can achieve.  Once we become apart of the Kingdom and bringing its reign here to Earth we realize that we matter less and less.  We begin to loss our worldly selves and find our true identity in Christ.

This is very hard for a lot of people to do, including myself,  because the 'worldy' life seems very appealing.  But it is just like the apple in the garden that Satan used to tempt Adam and Eve.  This worldly life I like to compare to wonder bread.  The wonder bread life is fake/processed, insubstantial, and unfulfilling.  Because of the way we are created, it isn't even good for us.  However wonder bread has some tantalizing aspects.  It is sweet, sugary, fluffy, it goes down easily, and everybody else says it's good.  The fact that it doesn't do much for us doesn't stop us from craving it or following a poor example from someone else.  God's abundant life however is like home made wheat bread.  It is substantial, fulfilling, full of nutrients, and it is good for us.  As many of you can attest, (and just remember this isn't a perfect analogy), when one moves from the wonder bread phase to the wheat bread phase; our perception of both changes.  Many may have a taste aversion to wheat bread at first, but once they realize it's benefits and choose to taste of it regularly, they realize it is just better than wonder bread.  Wonder bread can even become revolting,  I would choose to eat home made wheat bread any day over wonder bread. 

Lets choose that wheat bread, and bring the 'bread of life' to others around us.  It just isn't fulfilling to eat of the wonder bread life and the happiness that is perceived to exist in it, is temporary, unsubstantial, and unfulfilling.  God offers us the life we seek and the life we intrinsically desire.  Sometimes it is hard to adjust our eating habits to follow God's will, but it is well worth it.

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, he has crossed over from death to life.  I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live." John 5:24-25

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self control; and to self control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins." 2 Peter 1:3-9

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Following after Christ, an option?

If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation the old has gone and the new has come.. 2 Cor. 5:17

For it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.. Galatians 2:20

If anyone would come after me he must deny himself pick up his cross and follow me.. Matt. 16:24

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.. Romans 12:2

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever... 1 John 2:17

But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Rev. 3:16

Trust in the lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.. Proverbs 3:5

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.. Galatians 6:17

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his sould? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  Matthew 16:26

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs?  Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. James 3:10-12

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Cor. 6:14

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.  Matt. 12:30

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.  1 John 3:10

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Phil. 4:8

These scripture passages, along with many more, have helped me draw one conclusion.  If we believe in Jesus, then we have no choice but to follow in his footsteps wholeheartedly.  He does not only want parts of us, we are not called to compartmentalize our lives, giving some to God and keeping some for ourselves.  There is no room to be lukewarm, we are either hot or cold, "may your yes be yes and your no be no."  When we find new life in Christ there is a radical transformation.  We, as Christians, are not of this world, for the Kingdom is yet to come.  What does that look like, how differently are we supposed to act, and what does tha mean for my well being as a person alive in this world?

This is something I have pondered quite often and for long periods of time.  I have thought about myself and how I wage war against God day in and day out.  I want to do things my way and yet I realize that my way, unless it is parallel to that of God's, is no the best way.  I am continually realizing how selfish, conceited, and sinful I really am.  By facing my own reality, God has allowed me to perceive selfishness in other people as well.  It is some sort of empathy that I gained from knowing my own natural selfishness.  This has brought me to realize, along with scripture, that everyone is naturally self conceited.  Is this a pessimistic view? Sure it is.  Is it true? Sadly.  Every day I bear witness to myself and other people going through life with their own priorities, and it is their own well being that is at the forefront of their minds.  We seek temporary pleasures and insubstantial activities to feel comfortable or at ease.

this has brought me many times to ask, what does it mean to be a Christian; or to claim to be?  For many people, claiming to be a christian is a social status, or a label that changes the way others view them.  They want to be considered righteous, or religious by other people.  this is a very selfish way to use the sacrifice that God gave to us through His son.  For other people claiming religious status is similar to having a security blanket, or insurance policy.  They hope that by stating that they believe in Jesus Christ they will have eternal life, and then can continue living the lives they had lived before they knew of Jesus.

In Luke chapter 19 Jesus tells the parable of the 10 Minas.  To make the story short,  King/Leader gave money to three servants and told them to invest it while he was gone.  He then would see the profit they made on his return.  Two of the three servants did as instructed and came back with more minas then they had from the beginning.  The third, who had only been given one Mina, decided to bury it instead of investing.  He brought it back to his master believe that this one mina was all that mattered.  The owner however was very angry claiming that this servant did not do as asked.  " I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.  But those enemies of mind who did not want me to be king over them- bring them here and kill them in front of me." (Versus 26 and 27).

The servant hid away his one Mina even though he had direction from his master to invest it to make more.  In the same way are we to treat the knowledge and guidance that God has given us.  If someone only has one Mina, i.e. only belief in Jesus Christ, and has not been given direction on what to do with this belief,  I think they are therefore justified with Christ.  However, if someone believes in Christ and is then instructed to love their neighbor, it is equivalent to the servant being told to invest their money.  they now have two options; they can strive to love their neighbor because they believe that Jesus died for their sins, or they could choose not to love their neighbor.  If the second choice is made, to me it is as if the first option is completely negated and therefore not a viable option.  It is a direct rejection of not only God's world but of God himself.  If we 'believe' in Jesus Christ; and I mean actually believe, and God instructs us in the way to live, the choice has already been made.  "For it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me."  A byproduct of belief, and our choice to accept Christ, comes a response to follow in His footsteps.  this response, which isn't a choice but results from a choice, is the transformational power of God working in our lives. It renews our spirit, and we become dead to this world and alive in Christ.

I was reading a book that my uncle Paul gave me called "Surprised by Faith."  In it the author had a small chart explaining our relationship with Christ.  I believe this runs true in regards to all relationships.  First we have knowledge of God/Jesus.  Once we have this knowledge we then need to make a choice (whether to follow him or not).  Only after this choice is made will we have a response, which the changing of our lives and they way we perceive the world.  If the response is not there it means the choice was never really made, or that we chose something other than God. 
     "By their fruit you will recognize them.  Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.  Matthew 7:15-20

To some this may seem impossible because we will always be sinful while on this Earth.  However there is an important distinction.  Before we abide in Christ and He abides in us, it is us and sin against God.  Once we believe in Jesus and that we are free from sin it is now God and us against sin.

I read a book by John Hick and in it he states that if one is to claim to be religious, their religion should be at the forefront of their lives, anyone who does less than this, are not religious.  Does the importance we put on religion matter? Should we be thinking of God all the time, thinking of glorifying Him in absolutely everything we do? Should god be the ultimate focus in our families, our friendships, our minds, our attitudes, our speech, and our actions?  According to God the answer is yes.  "And He is the head of the body, the church.  he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent." (Colossians 1:18

Following after God is what life itself is all about and is therefore the most important.  To place things above God is a rejection of Him.  We are called to be different, to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world.  When non-Christians look at us they should be able to see something different. (this difference should not be hypocrisy). To me this all seems very daunting and I know I will still put things, especially myself, before God.  But it is the mind set and our point of focus that matters.  It is the Christian paradox, to strive for perfection knowing full well we will never get there on this Earth.  But we have a wise, loving, and powerful God to help us, and he has given us the holy spirit to guide us and teach us as well as empower us to do what is necessary.  We are not alone.

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." Matthew 7:24-27

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Natural Dissonance

It is in nature that I feel closest with God. I am in awe of the His glory that is written across this Earth. Waterfalls, caves, forests, streams, oceans, grasslands, deserts, and mountains have an alluring quality that is hard to resist. Nature is wild, untamed, dangerous, and thrilling; while at the same time exuding peace, security, simplicity, and above all wonder. To behold the beauty and majesty of this Earth that God created is such an honor. To believe that he created it for us, is well, overwhelming and humbling.

I am naturally a reflective person, and when my breath is taken away by God's power, beauty and majesty, I can barely express my thoughts or feelings. Every aspect and every facet of the area around me becomes something of interest. Last week at Okoboji I walked outside just as it began to stop raining. The day had not been good for me and I was feeling quite broken and distressed. God however was not cooperating with my emotions. The ground was wet, and the scent of the damp ground hung around me. Rain still sprinkled from the sky and shafts of golden light streamed through the tall gnarled oak trees. Birds were flitting from tree to tree, squirrels scampered across the ground searching for newly fallen acorns, and dragonflies swooped through the open air. As I walked down to the lakes edge, waves lapped gently at the shore. I looked up and my breath was taken away as I beheld a rainbow that arched across the sky, every hue of its bow standing out in stark contrast with the white clouds behind it. A light breeze played through the leaves above my head and the bird sang out to one another. There was a puddle close to my feet; an as droplets of water fell from the heavens, they formed bubbles across its surface; they made faint popping noises as each one floated gently into a pebble causing small ripples on the water. The air sparkled as the sun's light danced through the raindrops, and yet my heart was far from dancing.

Never had I felt so lost, so alone; and yet there I was amidst such beauty. I realized what it meant to yearn for heaven, because I was bearing witness to the dissonance and incompleteness of how things are amidst our sinfulness. It says in Revelations that God will create a new heaven and a new Earth. I like to think that they will be one and the same and the Earth will be restored to its original splendor. Just imagine what Earth was like before we defiled and tore it to pieces. No cares, no worries, just us and God dwelling in the garden once again. Oh how I look forward to that day. I want to walk through the forested glades, skip through the meadows, dance in the rain, sleep under the stars, and soak in the sunlight. Doing so in perfect unity with our God of Love.

18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that[i] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
 26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. (Romans 8)

“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.” --Thoreau

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time” --John Lubbock

Go fish and hunt far and wide day by day, and rest thee by many brooks and hearth-sides without misgiving. Rise free from care before the dawn, and seek adventures. Let the noon find thee by other lakes, and the night overtake thee every where at home. Grow wild according to thy nature, like sedges and brakes. -Thoreau (Walden)

“May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow. May the soft winds freshen your spirit. May the sunshine brighten your heart. May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you, and may God enfold you in the mantle of His love.”
--Irish blessing

“May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day. May songbirds serenade you every step along the way. May a rainbow run beside you in a sky that's always blue. And may happiness fill your heart each day your whole life through.”
--Irish blessing

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Brokenness: A Reality we must face

 We are sinful people, many times we forget this.  We are inadequate, selfish, petty, unworthy, and unclean.  We do not have the ability to understand things on our own, nor are we capable of doing good without the help of God.  The fall of man separated us completely with God, rendered the Earth faulty, and filled our lives with pain and turmoil.
Romans 3:10-20 says, "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.  Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.  The poison of vipers is on their lips.  Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.  Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery make their ways and the way of peace they do not know.  There is no fear of God before their eyes.' Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of faith."

There are two parts to having and pursuing a relationship with God.  First we need continually understand how lost we truly are, how incomplete, how selfishly confused.  This is a painful process but a necessary one.  When speaking of brokenness in regards to Christ we often say we must be broken.  I believe we just need to realize our brokenness.  If we live in the world, try and fulfill our own selfish ambitions, take control over our lives and other people, we already are broken even if we don't realize this.  We are not living the way we are supposed to be, there are negative consequences, and we are not experiencing abundant life.  Sometimes it is hard for us to realize this, it has taken me a long time to realize my own brokenness and I'm sure will be hard for me to continue believing it.  We become blinded to reality by the lies of success, of false truth, and the hope that we actually can make something of ourselves.  We want to think we can change the world, do good to others, discover our own truth; this is all a reflection of our desire to own ourselves.  It says in scripture "For the wages of sin is death." We have all sinned, therefore we deserve to die, we deserve to go to hell.  We are broken people who have no control, no power, and no intrinsic benevolence.  We rarely think of ourselves in this manner and even more rarely act as such.  But to truly understand the grace of God and find our identity in him I believe this is necessary.  This sounds very depressing and pessimistic but feeling completely inadequate is the only way to have full reliance on God; and from my experience the only way to really have a repentent heart.

Besides continually realizing our natural depravity we need to continually realize how great God is.  God is everything we are not and then some!  He is the creator of heaven and Earth, the author and perfecter of our faith, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.  When we realize that God is everything we are not, and at the same time know that he loves us and sent his son to give us eternal life, we can know that we are complete in him.  The only thing that connects us in our depravity to God's greatness is Jesus Christ.

I don't think either of these aspects could ever be realized to their full extent.  We can always learn more about how selfish and conceited we are without ever reaching the full extent of our depravity.  In the same sense we are never going to fully understand how great God really is.  I think it is also safe to say that we are never going to be able to always seek after these things perfectly either.  We will sometimes think we are great, and sometimes limit God's power.  Of course this is just more of our selfishness coming into play.  However by realizing where we are in relation to God, and where Jesus Christ is to us, miraculous changes can happen.  We understand ourselves and other people better, it is easier to empathize and to feel for other people without holding judgment.

Also upon the realization that all things are found in God, scripture has new relevance. To not rely on our own understanding we must acknowledge God in all things, ie using the truth that is in the Bible.  On top of it all, being able to understand sacrifice (see previous blog)helps us understand what it means to love selflessly and unconditionally.

I write about his only because I am realizing more and more how selfish I am.  Not only that but I am also learning how my vainness negatively affects my life and the life of others.  I am slowly coming to face with reality.  I have also recently felt broken for the first time in my life.  God has given me many gifts and talents I am extremely thankful for them but the way I have tended to utilize them have been for my own gain and to bring myself glory.  This self love has had many negative consequences in my relationships and in my life in general.  But along with everything else it is a learning process; and God has been teaching me many things in my brokenness.  I now know the feeling of inadequacy, helplessness, yearning, and desperation of my reality.  I also have learned a little about the love, joy, peace, and fulfillment of God.  It has really transformed my perspective of myself, other people, life, and God.  I hope and pray that God continues to take more of my self away so that he can fill me with his tender care, mercy, and grace.

Sacrifice, Love, and God

So I gave the sermon this last Sunday here at camp. It was on sacrifice, probably the most important act in Christianity. I don’t know if I presented it well enough but I learned some things while preparing it so I decided I will share what I learned. As we talk about sacrifice it is very easy to agree or disagree without self reflection. So I challenge you to reflect inwardly to really see where you are. Perhaps what I have to say will be a good reminder but maybe it will be a shock back to reality.

Mark 8:34-38 says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.
Now when it says we must deny ourselves, clearly it is speaking of sacrifice.  Sacrifice is giving up something that we consider important, for something we know is even more important.  In this case we are sacrificing for for the utmost. We must give up the life we think is good for us, and accept the life that God says is good for us.

John 15: 12-13 says, “My command is this; Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
We can learn two things from this. First that love implies and incorporates sacrifice or laying down of one’s life. I believe this can be interpreted literally; meaning that we should be willing to physically die for our friends. However it can also be interpreted as a living sacrifice; this is where we give up our time, money, energy, possessions, and all that is not essential to eternity for others. The second thing that can be learned is that this type of love should be shown to our friends. If this type of love is necessary for friendship our friends are those to whom we sacrifice for. Contrary to popular belief the relationship with our ‘buddies’, that we normally call friends, rely mainly on tolerance and using each other for amusement and being comfortable. Most of the time little self sacrifice is present and as a product very little growth. This is not the type of friend God is calling us to be.

I know about the capability of selfishness amidst good deeds. Sacrifice can be tainted by conceit and self righteousness; so not only do we have to be living sacrifices, but we also must have the right sacrificial attitude. This is outlined in Philippians 2: 5-11, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is lord, to the glory of God the Father”. Now many of you, as I did, may first say that this is an impossible attitude for us to have; perhaps this is true but it should not limit us in trying to mimic it.

In order to have a sacrificial attitude we need to continually understand how horribly imperfect, rotten, selfish, and deserving of death we are; while at the same time continually realizing how great God is. We do not deserve life, “for the wages of sin is death.” Every day we have, every breath we take, is a gift from God. Today many ‘Christians’ and other religious peoples are doing quite the opposite. Instead of glorifying god we glorify ourselves somehow believing we have divinity or something to give to God. But the truth is that God does not need us. He does not need us but he does want to use us. In Isaiah 55: 8-13 says;
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

If we don’t let God use us than he will just use someone else to accomplish his will. Another thing we believe we can give to God is our lives. In Christianity the statement of giving our lives to Christ is used a lot. How can we give God something that we don’t have in the first place? To believe that we control our lives is a lie we tell ourselves. Here is an example: If a man owns and controls a lawn mower he can guide it, fix it, and help it run smoothly, and it will fulfill its intended purpose. If we say we control our own lives then our lives better be in order. However our lives, our bodies are not meant for us to control. When we think we do own ourselves conflict arises, negative consequences occur, the machine that is us does not run smoothly and it does not fulfill its intended purpose. When we ‘give’ our lives to Christ, all we are doing is coming face to face with reality; the reality that we can’t have and control our own lives. God is the creator and controller, the only way for us, as the machine, to run smoothly is to realize this. For god loves the unlovable, uses the inadequate, cleans the unclean, perfects the imperfect, and glorifies the unworthy. We are the unlovable, the inadequate, the unworthy, the unclean, the imperfect, and the unworthy. It is about time we faced this reality. By this understanding we can be living sacrifices with a sacrificial attitude of Christ.

1 John 4: 7-12 helps us form a conclusion. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God, everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us; He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning SACRFICE for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

Since God loved us we ought to love one another, a love that has everything to do with sacrifice. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” If love incorporates sacrifice we can replace the words in that verse. “Whoever does not sacrifice does not know God, because God is sacrifice.” If we do not sacrifice it says we do not know God. If we do not know God, than we do not understand the sacrifice he made in Jesus Christ. If we don’t understand that sacrifice, not only do we not love, but we also are not saved.
This spin on love, sacrifice, and God, not only clarifies much of the Gospel; but also highlights one reason why Christianity stands apart from other religions. As far as I know, no other religion emphasizes sacrifice as a necessary condition to love, and therefore a necessary condition to know God. Other religions especially do not show God expressing this kind of love to people.  It also shows that this is not something we attain, but is a mere recognition of what already is. This recognition causes people to become living sacrifices, and does not hinge on people trying to sacrifice.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Friend or Foe

What does it mean to be a friend? Are the friends we have really friends, or are they foes? According to, a friend is a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile. Hostility is a hostile state, condition, or attitude; enmity; antagonism; unfriendliness. I would like to stretch this definition to include someone who doesn’t wish, condone, or act in a good way towards a fellow person. Most people know the classic quote, “If you aren’t with me you are against me.” This would be characterized as a feeling of uncaring or neutrality towards the wellbeing/goodness of another. As Desmond Tutu puts it, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” This being true I would then feel confident to define a friend as someone who pushes and wants us to be good.

This then leads me to question whether or not our friends are wishing the best for us. Are they pushing us to become better individuals, holding us accountable for destructive or vile behavior? Many people we call friends do not do this. Some of our friends don’t care what we do or how we act. They are content to watch us flounder in a state of immorality, where we hurt ourselves and others. If this is the case, how can we call them a friend, when in reality they are a foe? A foe is a thing that is harmful to or destructive of something. If someone is not helping us I believe they are hurting us. If they do not care and are neutral to things we are doing that are bad in nature we will continue to do them. Not caring does not seem to be a value that is normally attributed to a friend. Therefore those who do not care are not friends.

We choose to spend time with people for a variety of reasons (sense of humor, attractiveness, things in common, the way they make us feel). We also choose friends who challenge us, push us to work hard, make us think, and confront the way we live our lives because they believe that we can do better. Not all of our friends do this however. Some of our friends let us live a lie and dwell on false hopes. They don’t care if we hurt someone else (as long as it’s not them) or squander an opportunity. In the same sense we often relate to others in the same fashion. Not only should we look at how our friends relate to us but how we are, as a friend, to others.

Love, a word that is extremely misused in the USA (if not the world) today, has lost its meaning. “I love hamburgers. I love video games. I love football.” The list can go on and on. In the same context we often say we “love our friends.” Now this is not bad by any means and hopefully we can all learn to love one another, but the love must be justified. Love: a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend. If we love someone, we want the best for them; just like we do when we call someone a friend. So then therefore we love our friends. It seems to me that love for a friend has often been defined as letting him/her do whatever makes them happy. This is not love. We are human beings and with that come all of our faults and failures. Sometimes what we like or enjoy is actually bad in nature. It is only after a new revelation or lifestyle change that we realize its negativity. Here is where we come to the difference between love and kindness.

It may seem ‘kind’ to ignore a friends drinking problem; because then there would be no conflict, and your relationship with each other can continue on unhindered. In my opinion this is a selfish view, as one would be focusing only on their own needs and desires in regards to the relationship, instead of wanting their ‘friend’ to have a better life. Of course this is only true if you believe that drinking, or what drinking entails, is bad. If we hold an action or decision to be morally good or morally bad, it is essential that we live by this truth. So if a friend is doing something that you consider morally bad, keeping in mind that a friend involves love not just kindness, than you will talk to them about what they are doing.