Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Seeing It Through God's Eyes

For awhile now, several things have been burning inside my heart, and so I've realized that I need to get them out and just put them into words. I've been sitting back for quite some time now, just watching the interaction amongst Christian men and women and also just amongst Christians and the Non-Christian population as well. I'm not going to lie, a lot of the things I've been seeing are not very Christ-like at all. I've been seeing not only some downright mean and hateful things, but some hypocritical words and hurtful expressions have manifest themselves into the hearts of Christians; against themselves and against the Non-Believers they talk to. This blog post today is my attempt at getting some Biblical truths across to you the reader, concerning the mindset and the heart that we as Christians need to possess when interacting with the world, as well as highlighting things we should completely avoid altogether. So here is my attempt at getting out what has been building deeply inside of me for a considerable amount of time now. But through it all, my ultimate desire is for you the reader to really be able to understand God's heart on these matters.

1)To all the people out there that for some reason you don't like: find it in your own evil heart to love them. We all are sin-oriented creatures, who if given the chance ourselves would probably treat each other terribly while looking out for number one. Drop this mindset. It should never exist within you. The reasoning for "not liking someone" will always be sinful, no matter what your genuine excuse you think up is. I really do find it amazing that people spend more time trying to avoid each other and point out all the things we hate about each other moreso than we ever do working things out and looking past our aggrivations and frustrations we have with each other. It's incredibly sad and pathetic if you think about it. We will go above and beyond to tear each other apart and bring each other down, yet it absolutely infuriates us to make nice and show each other love. We can't stand that. It's "too hard" to do. This is because our nature is sinful. Nothing good comes from us, ever. We have nothing pleasing or good enough to give to each other or to God of our own ability or accord. But God is love. God has everything we need. Through His love, we can love one another because He will show us how. It will never matter how many people you're sinful little mind decides it doesn't like. But what will matter is how much love you show towards people, especially the ones you don't like. Be stronger than your hate. Be stronger than your selfish pride. Look on a world that can't help but be buried in sin, and choose to bathe it in love. If you don't and I don't: who will?

For This Passage Meditate on 1 John 4: 7-8 "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love".

2)To all the people out there that You might not think are truly Christians: stop judging them, get over yourself, and love them. Let me go ahead and give you an easy answer to one of the most oldest questions ever asked: No. It is impossible to truly know a person inside and out. Furthermore, you will never have even an idea of what a person is thinking, or what's going on in their mind. And to go even further, you have no idea what has happened to a person in their life that has made them who they are or how they view the world through their eyes or what kinds of beliefs they hold, and so on and so forth. So, it is because of this that we should never even think about judging someone. We don't have a right to. Ever. So I pray that you'll go ahead and understand that from the getgo. Just because someone doesn't appear to be a Christian doesn't mean that they are not one at all. They could be struggling with something in their faith and they don't know how to reach out to tell someone or seek help. They could be utterly lost in a world that has chosen not to care about them and help them. They could be scared because they don't understand what God is doing in their life or where He is right now for them. And so, even if their behavior isn't showing Christ-like signs of a person truly walking in the faith and following Jesus, Love Them Anyway. Because honestly it's really all we have to give each other: Love. Anything else we ever end up doing will be something God has chosen to work through us. Like I said earlier, we have nothing to offer. But out of everything you think you don't have, you will always have this: a choice. Maybe not an easy one, but a choice nonetheless. Want some helpful advice: Try using the solid Christian life that you happen to be leading as a compass marker, pointing the way towards Jesus and showing them the amazing love that God has shown you. A team effort is a wonderful way to show each other love. And just so you know, even if you decide to reject them in every possible way, they, just like you (even if you may be blind to it), are of infinite worth and value to God and His Kingdom. Every single one. We are All precious and valuable and beautiful and wonderful in God's eyes, even those of us who don't appear that way. Please possess a Kingdom mindset when viewing each other and not a sinful, human one.

For This Passage Meditate on 1 Peter 2: 1-5 "So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house..."

3)To all the people you wish wouldn't judge people in the world: look in the mirror. To be honest, you're probably doing it yourself. And I'm not even going to exclude myself because Lord knows I've done my fair share of it as well. It's never too late to allow God to break down the walls of your sinful heart and truly change who you are so that you can love the world the way He does. If you've found that you have the desire to want to see fairness and equality in the world, and you utterly despise people being mistreated or hurt or judged or cruelly cast aside and scorned by society, then chances are God has been placing into you His heart for the world. As Christians, it should tear us apart to see others judged for reasons they can't help or control. Should we want to slam down the hammer hard and get rid of people who treat others this way? No, not at all. We should want to work with them, showing them love and kindness, in the hopes that by the way we interact with them and the specifc way we treat them that they'll come to realize themselves their wrongdoings. It's not a massive guilt-trip experiment, it's a conviction that as brothers and sisters in Christ we have the responsibility to carry out and make aware to each other. I'm just going to go ahead and tell you now, Hate and Ridicule shouldn't exist in the world. They really shouldn't. But the sad part is they do. And though we can't help the fact that they exist, we can certainly control how we chose to respond to them, even in the face of adversity. They're both alive and well in the hearts and minds of many people who use them every day to further themselves, establish and build selfish egos, desire recognition and the spotlight for reasons that only benefit them, and the list goes on and on. But let's take a step back from everything. Are you one who judges too? Do you find your own self from time to time characterizing your thoughts, your life, your possessions, and your money as a pedestal that you think places you higher and better than other people. If so, you're being a part of the very thing that you hate. You're doing what deep inside your heart you know you can't stand and you know is wrong. When you act this way and think this way towards people you're really only condeming yourself. We are never going to be in a position where we know enough about each other and about human nature to accurately place judgement upon each other. God is the only true just and justifier. Even if you think no one will ever know your pretty little secret thoughts and judgements that you assign to people and keep hidden in your mind, God knows them very well. He knows every little detail of them. We can't escape the judgement of God. It is impossible to keep anything hidden from Him. And the reality is we are all going to be judged accordingly before Him in the end. Please learn to recognize the warning signs of sinful judgment when you feel them coming on, and try and take the plank out of your own eye before pointing out the one in someone else's; because there's a 100% chance you have a huge one stuck in yours.

For This Passage Meditate on Romans 2: 1-3 "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?"

As always, anything I write here in my blog is absolutely directed my way as well. My prayer is that you and I both can look at each other with hearts of love and spirits of humility, understanding that everyone needs the grace of God and the forgiveness and mercy of our savior Jesus everday. We all judge each other from time to time, and when we do it's wrong. We all have our own prideful faults, in which we place ourselves and our positions above others. And we all reach that point where we desire peace and love, and fairness and equality to be what we see when we look out over the world. But in order for any of that to happen we must change our mindset towards each other. Our heart must be the same heart that God has for all of us. Finally, we must each one of us understand that not only is nobody perfect, but also nobody is higher or better than anyone. We're all on the same playing field in God's eyes, and we must learn to love one another right now, so that we can begin to see the world the way God sees it. This is my goal. This is my hope. This is my prayer. God bless you all.

[For this closing passage to really be put into perspective for you, I would love for you to please read Isaiah 53:6 and Romans 3: 23-24]

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It All Starts With A Question...

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried". - G.K. Chesterton

I used to think that a real man was characterized by all of his successes and his achievements learned from the teachings of his Father. But, by the beautiful example set forth in Jesus, I now know that the true measure of a man is determined by how a man lives his life in response to intense persecution and opposition; choosing to never denounce his faith, and always being obedient to the Father. However, throughout my life I've encountered people that don't accept this truth as something that benefits them, or is of use to the way they understand things to be. Their arguments seems to be centered on (or related to) the question "But what if I want to think for myself?". Let's tackle that question, shedding light on some very important areas of the Christian faith that need to be investigated: 1) The existence of God. 2) Understanding His Will for our lives. God does indeed give us the gift of free will, to utilize our minds to think and to make decisions. The key is to remember that both our thoughts and our decisions must be based off of biblical principles; and that the way we choose to think and to live must be in a manner that brings glory to God, furthers His Kingdom on Earth, and resembles the very same way that Christ lived His life. This is in hopes that the authentic Christian faith can be lived out in a manner that will always be aligned with the will of God for our individual lives (which will, in turn, serve as faithful obedience to what He has willed for us).

In a recent conversation with an atheist, I went about bringing up the aforementioned claims to his arguments against both the existence of God and the validity of Biblical principles set forth in the Christian faith. The young man responded with this declarative statement: "There is no reason to assume that God is any more real than any other supernatural entity proposed throughout the vast course of human history, and therefore, submission to his supposed will becomes incredibly silly".

One of my best friends, and fellow brother in Christ, helped me tackle this situation with a very well-defined, knowledgeable, and accurate answer to this heavily skewed misconception regarding God and the Christian faith. David was a former atheist, who after intensive analysis, in which he did an investigation into both the biblical claims found in Scripture of those of God and the Christian faith, contrasted with subsequent moral claims found in modern culture; came to faith in Christ and is now a Christian with a heart on fire for Christ. So I knew that if any man knew how this atheist felt, it was most certainly David. David's response was: "If you have taken any class about science, math, or art you wouldn’t be able to honestly say that. If you knew the complexity of the world around us in the science/math realm you could never say there wasn't a creator. Even if you haven't had any math/science classes, if you just have eyes and have seen the sheer beauty of creation, then you couldn't say there is no Creator either. You wouldn't assume that if you were walking in the middle of the woods and found a watch that it was just randomly generated out of thin air. No, you would deduce that it was created by someone, and it evidently ended up there somehow. Even in the science realm, most scientists will agree that there is some Creator, and they accept intelligent design. The ones that don't are usually the more ignorant and hard-headed of their field. And so, it isn't a real question of IF we're created, it's just by WHOM. Trust me, this is coming from a former, avid atheist. Therefore, I see it as an extremely logical choice to follow the will of who created everything in the universe".

Wow. I knew David had hit the nail on the head, from both a scientific perspective and a Christian perspective. In David's response, though, I began to really understand something about the thriving culture of Non-Christians that live among us: so many answers to key questions regarding God and the Christian faith are searched for within the realms of science and other worldly areas, but hardly ever in Scripture. I mean think about it, how often do you ever really see people searching for God himself and the truth of God in the only place a man can find Him: In His word. In Scripture. It is amazing to me how God reveals Himself to us in Scripture: through Old Testament promises made to His chosen people, the Israelites, to faithfully deliver them from persecution and provide for them, all the way to the New Testament revelation of His son Jesus Christ, sending him to be a ransom for mankind, pay our penalty for our sins on the cross, and bring us back to a personal relationship with Him. Everything we could ever want to understand about who God is, what He's done, the type of character He possesses, what power and wisdom He has, and so much more can all be found in Scripture. That's still not all there is to it though. Romans 6: 1-2 tells us "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" Even if we do decide to make the choice to truly believe in the existence of God, and in what Christ did for us on the Cross, and we receive salvation, we can't just go on living as we always have. And see, that's where a majority of the questions that atheists and Non-Christians raise cain about are derived from. They don't want to accept the fact that, even if they should decide to believe in the existence of God and believe in biblical principles found in Scripture, that those things carry along with them the understanding that change is now in order. Those people want to continue acting as they do, believing the things that they believe, and enjoying their present lifestyles. To accept the existence of God and truly believe that Christ is Lord shouldn't just change the way we see things and understand things to be, it should change our very behavior. It should change the way we live our lives. We shouldn't possess the desire, even for one second, to go back to the way we used to see things or to the way we used to behave or carry ourselves. In our old selves and our old ways of living, we were slaves to sin. It reigned in our lives and we were easy victims of it's evil hold on us. But when we choose to acknowledge the existence of God, along with recognizing and confessing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are free from sin and made alive in Christ. But, once again, it doesn't stop there. Change must occur. In our hearts. In our values and morals. In our thoughts. In our lives. We begin to understand who we're really living for: God, and His purposes for us. This is where the will of God for our lives comes into play in a big way for us.

Choosing to follow the will of God does bring with it a demand to be faithfully obedient to his divine and sovereign will; which can only be accomplished when living a life centered around biblical principles, the likes of which can be found in Scripture. Amazingly enough, God actually tells us himself in Scripture, through the Holy Spirit, that what is said and explained in Scripture (by means of the OT prophets, the NT apostles, etc.) is exactly what He has intended for us to know, to understand, and to carry out. For as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work".

The truth is, following the will of God in your life isn't always easy. It can require sacrifice, or having to do something you're not comfortable with, or leaving an area you've been in for awhile, and who know's what else. But, never forgetting that the purpose of what will be asked of you by God, will always be greater than the doubts you have about it's validity and truth, will always keep your heart set on the task at hand in the way that God wants you to be. We are to follow in obedience. We are to follow in trust. We are to follow in love and in respect of knowing that God knows what is best. The following Scripture verse is the best thing I can give to you to help you understand God's reasons for what He has asked of us and our constant tendecy to try and understand those reasons. If this can comfort you, then please let it: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways". -Isaiah 55:8. We need to accept the fact that we can't understand God the way we always are going to want to understand Him throughout our Christian faith, but we can always trust and hope and be obedient to the fact that He has a plan for us, He has a will for our lives, and we have a purpose and a place in His Kingdom.

I really hope that this discussion has encouraged you, the reader. Whether you are a fellow brother or sister in Christ alongside me in our Christian walk of faith, an atheist who rejects God and the truth found in Scripture, or merely a person desiring to know God or what the Christian faith is all about, my goal in creating this specific post today is to let you know that everything you could ever want to know or to understand always begins with a question. A single question. You know, sometime's it okay to doubt. With doubts we question things, and with questions we get answers, and with answers we grow. Even for Christians, doubting is a part of growing in our faith. God never tells us to accept blindly. He made us curious creatures; we're always asking and wondering and getting into things, and there's a reason for that. Never be afraid to ask the burning questions locked deep within your heart, especially if they have to do with God and with the Christian faith. There really are answers to them. You just have to be willing to search for them, to accept things you might never have thought could be true, and most importantly: to listen. :)

I pray that God continues to shower us all with His love and with His grace. And, as always, as I continue to pursue God's grace throughout the course of my life, I pray I never forget that it's always okay to ask God questions. After all, all I ever want is to grow to know Him more.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

For Those Who Want To Leave...

 "None loses you but he who leaves you; and he who leaves you, where does he go..." -St. Augustine

How often do we make the choice to leave something because it doesn't matter to us anymore? How often do we become confused with what we don't understand, and simply walk away? How often do we possess the desire for something, but not the willingness to hang tough under pressure when we're suffering and things aren't going our way? It is these types of questions that the Christians who end up leaving the Christian faith behind fight fierce battles with inside their hearts when everything doesn't make sense anymore. As a follower of Christ and a servant to God's Will for my life, I've come to understand that there will be many times in my life when I have absolutely no earthly idea what is going on around me. Sometimes I don't understand what God wants to work through me. Sometimes I don't really see the place that Jesus is leading me to, or something He's telling me to do. And if it weren't for my solid faith in God's understanding and power, I probably would be in the same boat with the rest of the Christians who, once having becoming lost, just walk away and leave God in the rear-view mirror.

Here Are a List of Some Reasons Why I Honestly Believe Many Christians Leave Their Faith in God Behind:
-God has asked us to do something that doesn't coincide with our desires and interests.
-We receive intense persecution, and it "doesn't seem fair or right" to us.
-Something bad or painful is always going on in our lives and we attribute it to "God not caring".
-We contradict the truth we've found in Scripture for what we learn in life because what we learn "seems better" or "more true for me".

It's Not Easy, But That's the Beauty of It
-There are probably many more reasons for why Christians leave the faith and God behind, but I'm sure you get the gist of it by now. Guys, I'm not going to promise you that following through with what God calls you to do is going to be easy, or appealing, but I can tell you this: recognize that "feeling lost" in the midst of it all is just another reason to trust in Him and in His faithfulness that, when He says He'll give us the strength to make it through, that He really will; because in His good grace that's the kind of God our God is. In writing this I'm here to tell you that there are times when I've felt lost. Sometimes I'm still lost with where it is I feel I'm supposed to go from here. But the very second that my mind starts to drift towards this type of thinking, I take a step back and realize that I'm only a human being, incapable of understanding the divine qualities of God. Just because we're Christians it doesn't mean that we're always supposed to know and understand everything God has called us to do. If we knew everything all the time, then we would try and venture out on our own, using our own knowledge and wisdom to fulfill His Will for our lives. It is because we won't always see everything the way that God sees it is why we have faith. It's one of the biggest reasons why we have trust in God. And so, as is told to us in Scripture in Proverbs 3: 5-6  "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight". 

He's In Control                                                                                                                                                                           -As Christians, we must know and understand that God has our lives under control, and that, in those times when we have no idea what's going on, when we think He isn't there anymore, and when we're not sure what the next step to take is, that God always has a plan for us. And that plan will never lead us to a point where we're alone, or to where we're of no worth or value to Him. Psalm 136:1 tells us to "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever". He loves us with a love that is never-ending, and it will never fade away. We are never lost in Him; it's impossible. 

-Take a few minutes and watch this video which discusses the story of Joseph, (found in Genesis Ch's 37-50), a man betrayed by his own family and sold into slavery. This is one of the most famous examples in Scripture of the Steadfast Believer who, through intense persecution and suffering, always remained faithful to God. Even when he probably felt lost through it all, Joseph never left his faith in God behind; surrendering everything that he was going through to the power of God. Let this story paint a clear picture for you of the faithfulness of God and how, in His grace and goodness, He comes through and rewards us, especially when we're suffering and lost. 

Give It Another Chance
-For those of you who are wanting to leave God and the Christian faith behind, I pray that you take another look at your life, think twice about it, and try to really see what's going on. Please believe me when I tell you that I've been in your shoes. I've doubted whether God was present in my life. I've thought about leaving the Christian faith when everything became too hard to handle. I can promise you though that God comes through, and He will never allow us to be lost apart from Him. The truth is WE are the ones who choose to be lost from God, who choose to leave. But it doesn't have to be that way. I implore you to wait it out, to try and pull yourself together, and to give your faith in God another chance. My hope is that, when you feel lost, that you won't let the world try and tell you where to go, or how to respond to God's Will for you. Give that up to God to decide and lay upon your heart. In my own life I've learned that, when it comes to God and his plan for me, exercising patience and obedience to Him go a long way in delivering me from those hard times in which I've felt disconnected from Him. My prayer, for you and me, is that we will remain faithful to God no matter how difficult it is to do so, hand in hand, knowing that we're all in this together.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

God Always Delivers

When a man gets to despair he knows that all his thinking will never get him out. He will only get out by the sheer creative effort of God. Consequently he is in the right attitude to receive from God that which he cannot gain for himself.”
-Oswald Chambers

More and more, in my life and in the lives of Christians around me, I'm finding that when we're overwhelmed with things that are placed before us, be it trial and tribulation, persecution from others, or even something as simple as a difficult class assignment, we immediately lose all focus and want to give up. It's almost as if, when faced with the possibility of our faith being tested, we're not willing to go that far and trust in God. That always boggles my mind. Why is it so hard to just be still and know that God is God? Why is it so hard to trust that God will come through when we need him the most? Why do we sometimes lose sight of the fact that, when we confessed with our mouths and believed in our hearts that Jesus is Lord, that there will never be a day from here on out that we're not sheltered in His arms? What we need to understand is that we can't overcome what we're faced with by ourselves, only the beautiful work of God can accomplish that. If there's anything I've discovered throughout my Christian walk of faith it's this: God has never and will never give us more than we can handle. When I read the story of Jesus calming the storm in Luke 8, a wry smile comes to my lips as I think about how embarrassed the disciples must have been when Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith in Him, and in God's goodness. Guys, here's a simple piece of truth for you: When we, as humans, can't seem to measure up to the things life will throw our way, remember that God's grace is bigger than our troubles. Moreover, Jesus has the power to keep us safe from anything and everything that could ever put us into a spot of danger, and it's only because of God's wonderful love for us, that He, in His good grace, gives us the power and the ability to triumph over anything. For as Romans 8:37 says "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us". :)