Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sharing Christ

I heard a praise worthy report from my wife the other day.   My 13 year old daughter used some material from Dare to Share to tell her friend about Christ.   She is open about telling her friends about Jesus,  she invites them to church and to youth group.   It's so amazing to see how she can just share,  it's so natural to her.   I wish I could be more like her in that area.  I am very proud of her.

I have tried to do a few things myself,  like trying to take a little light into the darkness.   I tried to share on a page on Facebook that posts pictures of people who have been arrested.   It was not recieved well,  there is a group that gets on the page to mock the arrested.   They didn't like me praying or being encouraging.   I found that others also encouraged me not to share on that page.   They said it wasn't a good place to share.   That makes me ask the question,  is there places we shouldn't share?

I think about Jesus and the Apostles.   Do you think people told them not to share in some places?   Maybe told Jesus He shouldn't teach around the religious leaders,  cause they were getting mad.   Told Paul not to teach in Ephesus,  they may get angry.   Told him to be quiet before he gets arrested,  beaten,  put on trial,  beheaded?   I was never in danger of any of those things,  I was just called vulgar things and then kicked off the page for a while.

I was thinking about all the other times I could share my faith,  and I don't.   At work,  because it's work time.   I don't share in social situations because that would be awkward.   I don't tell strangers,  because they would feel like I'm attacking them.   These are all excuses,  and not really that good.

Do I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit?   Do  I believe the Gospel has the power to save all those who would believe? Do I believe that the word of God will not return void?   If I believe those things,  then what the heck am I doing? I need to be preaching Jesus,  that He died for sin and rose on the third day and conquered sin and the grave.   There is no reason that I shouldn't share,  whenever and where ever.   In public,  in private,  at work,  even on the Lock Up page.

Where is God calling you to share?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why?


I have grown up mostly in the 80s and 90s, and during those time periods, there has been a shift in the way examination and beliefs have processed.  In the baby boomer generation, the question was “what should we do”.  In my generation, Gen X and Gen Y, the question is not so much of how, but why?  Why do we do things, what is the purpose and what is the point?  Are we doing something that is worth while, is this worth our time and effort?  This is a departure from the philosophy of our baby boomer parents, who told us what to do, but the question of why was usually answered with “because I said so”.  This wasn’t enough for us then, and it’s certainly not enough for us today.  In the realm of theology and the exploration of God’s word, the question is not so much of “what” but of “why”?  God is moving, calling us to follow and there are things we should do and should not do, but why?

There are many things about God’s rules and laws that we take for granted, like the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes that tell us how we should behave.  These are clear commandments, and like the Great Commission, we need to follow them, but have we ever stopped to ask why?  Have we stopped to ask why God gives us things to do and things not to do?  I believe that God encourages us and pushes us to ask the question why.  The reason I believe is simple, God calls us to obedience to have a deeper, more intimate and fulfilling relationship with Him.  This is the purpose of the commandments, for the Great Commission, for the wisdom of Paul and Peter, James and John, the writings of the Old and New Testament all exist for this one principle, that we can know and love God more and have a deeper relationship with Him.

The purpose of any theological system should not be to understand what God does, but who God is and what God is doing.  We should not approach God as a distant school master, who exists to keep us in line.  Instead, we should approach God as loving father, who desires a deeper relationship with us.  His desire is that we would live a fulfilling life, filled with love and joy and peace.  We can find these things in our Heavenly Father, regardless of the turmoil of life, the difficult situations and the trials and temptations.  The why to our what is this, that we would find all that we need in our Father.

This should change the way we approach God, the Bible and the rules and commands He gave us.  They are not rules to keep us from life, but guidelines to make sure we have a full and substantial life.  These truths that God gives us will free us from the bonds of sin, from the chains of error and the shackles that so often come with all disobedience.  God will set us free if we will be open to be set free.  God will give us life if we are just willing to live it.  God wants to have a deeper relationship with us, and He longs to reveal more and more of His nature and character.  In this, or any theological exercise, our goal should be to know God, love Him more and share what we have found with others.  My prayer in this is that we will discover the depths of truth in His love and the freedom of His grace, as well as His commands.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Freedom

Are you free?   Like really free?   I was walking with a buddy at work the other day,  and there are painted lines to separate the walkway from the area in the warehouse where the forklift runs.   The lines are like the commandments in the Bible.   They show us where to walk so sin doesn't run us down like a loaded down forklift.

We see these lines,  and we begin to obsess over where the lines are.   We want to know "is this a sin? "  or "is that a sin?"   We want to know where the edge of the cliff is because we are obsessed with walking on the edge.   We want to stay as close to the temptation as we can without actually stepping over it,  which we usually end up doing.

Maybe it's time we begin to live out of who we really are.   As sons and daughters of God,  we are free to live without being trapped by sin.   Everything in God's laws and commands are there to give us life.   There is fulfillment of the Old Testament laws,  we no longer have to sacrifice,  we don't wear four tassels and we can eat bacon.   We have freeing laws,  like love God,  love for Him sets us free.   Love others because anger and hate are a prison.   Share and build community,  we are meant to be with others.   Avoid those things that will trap you and snare you and destroy your life.

The road is narrow and few find it,  but we don't have to live on the edge of the path.   Let's move to the center and run with the freedom of God's incredible grace.   Let's focus more on how we can love others instead of how close we can get to sin.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

I'm Back

Well I haven't blogged in a while.  I have been working nights and still recovering from surgery so I took a mental break.  I continued to read my Bible, but stopped reading just about everything else.  I didn't write anything and just shut down some.  It was a good mental vacation, but I missed writing, so I'm back.  I want to share a few things I learned during my time away.

First, I have found I have a deep craving for wisdom.  I have been reading and re-reading Proverbs in an attempt to gain wisdom.  I have prayed for wisdom and really begun to think about who I spend time with.  I crave wise mentors in my life and need to make a strong effort to be with those who are wise.

I am learning patience.  I struggle with feeling hopeless about my desire for vocational ministry.  I felt called into vocational ministry since I was 16, spent 20 years working and preparing and then it seemed one day is was gone.  There are some days I feel like that life is gone, that I will never again be in vocational ministry.  People love to tell me that I just need to be in ministry where I am.  That's called being a Christian, of course I do ministry where I am.  Vocational Ministry is different all together, and I miss it a great deal.  I must continue to be patient and see what God has in store for me.  It's not easy.

I am learning to take each day as it comes.  There is value in planning and preparation, but the best laid plans do often go astray.  I am trying to put my focus in where I am and what I'm doing.  When I'm at work, I focus on work, and I try to do the same at home.  It's not always easy, I want to focus on all the things I need to do and all the things I have to do and all the things I want to do.  Lots of distractions that I'm trying to cut out.

Now that I'm back, I hope to blog more.  I have a few reviews to write and some things I want to share.  I hope you'll join me as I begin my writing adventure again.  I've missed sharing with you.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Look Inside the Depressed Soul

I have written several times about struggling with depression, I don't want to rehash all of that.  I want to consider for a moment if we were to take out my soul and dissect it, what would be find inside.

My soul looks no different than any other.  It's a reflection of who I am as a person, fragile yet resilient, tender but sometimes rude.  It longs to give but it can also take, it loves but can be overcome with rage.  The depression has caused it to be a darker shade, you can see by looking on the outside it's over come by some shadows of despair.  What would you expect to find filling such a soul?  Bitter poison?  Garbage, dark and foul sludge?  Is it full of hate and disgust?  What will be filling a soul of depression when looking inside.

Opening up my soul, there is nothing.  It's empty, no garbage, no sludge just a hollow, cacophonous void.  There are small spots in the corner of the remaining joy and hope.  There is a small puddle of bitterness, some anger splattered, all the human emotions but just trace amounts.  For the majority, it's just empty.  The air is stale, there is no movement or breeze.  It's just an empty space.

The soul longs for something to fill the empty space.  There is a longing for love and joy and peace to fill the gaps.  There was a time when emotions flowed in the soul more freely, but they have all dried up.  Only residue of their existence remains.  The is no reason, no blockage or structural defect that has caused the emptiness.  It just is, it's a reality that I have not found the key to repairing.

As I close my soul up, I ask myself, what is the answer?  How do I fill my soul again?  There are so many opinions, voices on the outside shouting at me, telling me what to do.  Fix my circumstances, just get over it, deal with my issues and stop feeling sorry for myself.  I have tried to get over it, tried food and exercise and medication.  The empty spaces remain.  Occasionally an emotion will run for a little while, but then dries up again.

I will continue on, to persevere with an empty space inside my soul.  I will go forward, whether I feel like it or not and seek the answer.  Maybe one day I'll find it, maybe I won't.  For now my companion is a hollow space that I long to fill with goodness.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Time for my X-Mas Post

I write a blog about this every year, and since we have the tree up, it's time for me to write my yearly blog on the nature of Christians around Christmas time.  You see, something happens to Christians around this time of year that instead of being the hands and feet of Jesus, we become overly sensitive cry babies, getting mad if someone says the wrong blessing.  People in stores and banks and other places of business have the gall to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas".

The other issue is the infamous X-Mas.  The problem with this is the X is the Greek letter for Christ.  X-mas was started by Christians because they understood that X=Christ.  Then we forgot that X=Christ and started blaming the filthy sinner of taking Christ out of Christmas.

So here is my rant.  We are suppose to represent Christ, and I'm sure He never threw a fit over something as trivial as how people greeted him.  Holiday is a variation of Holy Day, so it's still in a sense a Christian greeting.  Instead of being gracious, smiling and saying "Merry Christmas" back, we have thrown a fit about it publicly.  It has caused those who are far from God to move farther from God.  We have damaged our one job, our purpose for being on earth over a holiday greeting.

I saw a picture on Facebook that says "But the Christ back in Christmas?  How about putting the Christ back in Christian".  That does sum up a little about how we act during this time of year.  Let's be gracious, offering kindness and understanding.  Let's be the Christ at Christmas instead of worrying about how Wal-mart employees greet us.  Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thoughts of Ferguson, How Do We Make Sense?

Unless you've been under a rock, you know the grand jury chose not to indite the officer responsible for the death of a young black man in a suburb of St. Louis.  The result of that decision has been a great deal of social unrest in Ferguson.  Looting an rioting and protest both peaceful and violent.  As Christians, as people of faith, what do we do in response to the heaping of tragedy on tragedy?  How can we make sense of what is happening?

Civil unrest due to ethnic or cultural differences has existed since the tower of Babel.  Man was split into different culture groups, which we have mistakenly called "race".  Let's be clear, humans are all one race, but we have different culture and ethic groups, sometimes based on a similar genetic trait such as the amount of melanin and skin pigment.  Cultures often considered themselves better than other cultures or people groups, sometimes leading to killing them, enslaving them, persecuting them or other harmful or shameful behaviors.  In this country, Africans were brought on ships in horrible conditions and made slaves.  Once slavery was abolished, the now American blacks had no rights, or very few.  This has been a long standing issue, and the economic disparity that exists has created a culture and ethic clash for many in the black community.  This is what exists in Ferguson, and it doesn't matter if the officer in question was justified or unjustified in the shooting.  It matters that the members of that community feel like they are marginalized and shunned.

As Christians, we must recognize that in our own communities, there are many who feel they are not cared for or cared about.  They may be black or Hispanic or white or a mixture of cultures.  They feel like no one cares, they feel like they have no opportunity and will never be able to get out of life they find themselves.  Many are angry or depressed or a combination.  People are hurting and when a tragedy occurs like happened in Ferguson, it causes even deeper feeling of alienation.  We must come along side these hurting people and love them, pray for them and help them to feel connected to a community of support and encouragement.  The church should be active and alive in these communities and bringing support.  For too long, the only supportive community has been that of the gang, the criminal groups or the drug culture.  They have used the opportunity of the hurt to enlist and grow their communities.  The church needs to make sure we are building communities there.

We need to help the kids.  The kids suffer more than anyone in these communities.  They are targets of gangs and drug dealers, trying to recruit them.  They are often alone as mom works to pay the bills.  Sometimes dad is around, sometimes dad isn't around.  The air of hopelessness is all around them, often the schools and programs in the area struggle more and have less to offer.  It's a situation that causes a perpetual cycle, many feel like there is no way out.  The church, Christians need to be present in the situation, giving and sharing and loving.  We need to give the kids something to hope for, and a reason to be happy.

Ferguson reminds us that there are hurts in this country that run deep.  People are hurt and angry and when things like this occur, it releases pain that has been pushed down for too long.  The violence isn't coming just from this even, but from years, decades of hurt and abandonment.  We can speak out against the violence, but more talking will never heal their hearts.  We need to be the hands, the feet of Jesus and do what we can to make things better for everyone, meet them where they are and love them where they live.