Monday, November 28, 2016

How to Understand God

You Can't.

Ok, I'm going to explain more than that, but that's the honest truth. The knowledge, understanding, and wisdom of God is so far beyond anything that all humans combined together can even possibly begin to scratch the surface of. The wisdom and understanding of God is unfathomable. The problem is how often we attempt to make God make sense to our little minds. In the scheme of eternity, we think our limited time on earth puts us on par with God.

Our first issue is we assume we know that is best. We have decided that all suffering is wrong, and therefore God shouldn't allow suffering. I have seen it said that "If God is all powerful, He is not all good, and if He is all good, He is not all powerful". This is because we assume we know that it would mean to be all good. No suffering, no hurting, no hunger or disease or poverty. We think we know better than God, so a world with no need would be perfect.

This assumes that we understand what things would be like if there was no suffering or need or pain or death. We believe we can fathom perfection, therefore God should give it to us because it would be better. We assume we know more than God. The reality is that suffering exists for our good. We become who we need to be and who we should be through suffering, through working and striving and making progress. The reality is, unless we are first perfect, the world cannot be perfect. If the world is perfect, then we would screw it up by being in it.

This brings us to the more complex issue, why He allowed us to be imperfect. God could have just eradicated Satan, but He didn't. He didn't have to plant the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, but He did. He could have wiped out Adam and Eve and started over. He didn't. This is more of a conundrum than the first question. The first question is only asked by those seeking to disprove God, because the problem with the world is that people are sinful. The bigger question is why God allows us to be sinful.

In all honesty, every person deserves to be destroyed. We all are much better at evil than good. We do evil without thinking, it takes work to do good. We are not neutral creatures, we are selfish and hurtful and go things just to amuse our selfish and sinful nature. We deserved to be wiped out, but God is patient with us and allows us to continue on.

During our family Bible time the other night, my son asked me why God didn't wipe Satan out. My older boy and my daughter started giving answers they heard in youth group and Sunday School and from other people. I just had to shut it down, because we don't know. Yes, maybe the relationship inside of Salvation will be more intimate that God walking with Adam. Maybe there is merit in the way that judgment and salvation and redemption will bring God the most glory in eternity. I'm sure there are a myriad of answers, but the reality is, we don't know. If God told us, we probably still wouldn't understand. It would be like trying to explain outer space to a goldfish in a bowl.

So, next time you decide you are going to put God on trial and demand that He account for the suffering, just remember, you coudln't understand it. If He did solve the issues, it would require your irradication. Be thankful that suffering exists, God is paticent with us and we can grow and strive in hard time because He is faithful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Day One Post Op

Well I paid a guy to cut me open yesterday, worth every penny. Had my back surgery to trim back the bulging disc, called a Lumbar Discectomy. The surgeon said it was a bigger bulge than he originally thought, he wasn't sure how I was functioning. I was in a lot of pain, makes me feel vindicated, that I'm not just a big wimp. I fought through the pain as much as I could, but sometimes it was just more than I could tolerate. Guess there was a reason.

This whole experience, even though it's not over, has had some positives. I have been able to spend some time with Elaine talking, I think we have grown closer. I have slowed down since I had no option. I have written more and got some things on that side accomplished, and I feel pretty good about that. I've read some good things, watched a few movies and enjoyed some down time. The pain meds made the down time bearable.

Day one of the recovery. I can't sit for more than 15 minutes, I can't drive or lift anything. Just need to heal. Part of me wants to get back to work, but I'm going to listen to my doctor. Spine issues aren't something to mess around with. Thank you all for your prayers and support. Thank you for support for Elaine, for the food and those who have supplied for my sweet tooth with ice cream and donut. I love you all, thanks for the prayers and well wishes.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Reflections on my Upcoming Surgery

Tomorrow I go and finally have my surgery. I have a major bulge in a disc in my L4, L5 vertebrae and they are going to trim it back. The bulge is putting pressure on a couple of nerves and causing my intense pain down my left leg. I struggle with driving and walking and sitting, all those things cause me great pain. I've been off work for a couple of weeks because I've been unable to work. The surgery is something I'm very much looking forward too.

Surgery is not something we are normally excited about. Being cut open and having things removed from our body is not necessarily a pleasant thing. Surgery hurts, being cut open causes pain. The body does not particularly want to be opened up. It hurts when  things are cut out, but I'm not worried about it hurting. The reason is that I'm already hurting and the localized pain will be better than the extensive pain down my back and left leg. The pain that I will experience will make the pain I'm having now a distant memory.

In life, sometimes we need God to be a spiritual surgeon. There are things in your life that need to be cut out. There are people in your life that need to be removed from your life. Perhaps you have a relationship that is not good for you. Many say that love is blind, but also love is foolish, we have emotional connections with people who are bad for us. We have friendships, we have idols, we have things in our lives that control us. Often we like these things, but they are destroying us. The sin that in our lives is like a cancer in our lives. We need spiritual surgery.

Having things cut out of our lives can be painful. There is recovery, there is therapy, there is a process and it can be uncomfortable. Tomorrow, they will cut my back open and go inside to trim back the bulging disc, and my body will experience pain. The pain will bring healing. Are you grieving because something you loved has been removed? It's for your benefit and you will heal. You don't have to like it, but trust God, because He loves you and knows what is best. His love will bring healing and wholeness. Trust God, hold tight to Him and stay connected with other believers. Healing is happening.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I'm Not Sure That Means What You Think It Means!

I'm going to be honest and share one of my biggest pet peeves. Isogesis. Isogesis is when you have an idea or a belief or a thought and then you find a Bible verse or part of a Bible verse to support what you say. That problem with this it ignores context completely. If you take a phrase out of context, you can make it say whatever you want. The media has been doing this for years, politicians are pros at it. Don't do it.

Instead, you need to exegete a passage. I want to teach you today real quickly how to let your theology be Biblical, instead of having to twist scripture to match your theology. Remember, the Bible should shape your theology, not your reasoning, not your feelings, and not some guy on TBN. You must take the Bible as a whole and use context, scripture, and the Holy Spirit to come to a correct understanding.

First, when we study, we read entire passages that complete the thought. Don't worry about the verses or chapters, read the complete thought. Let's look at Romans 8. We all loves verse 28, right, that all things work for the good of those who love God. Then we stop. Sometimes we fight about the idea of "being called according to His purpose", cause that sounds like election. Then we get to 29, and people often gloss over it. We just sort of skip down to verse 31, cause we like that part. This is not the way to read the passage.

First, start at verse 26, read through verse 30. I'm not going to post it, go get your Bible. This is all part of the same paragraph, so how does 26 and 27 relate to 28? The Spirit is praying for us according to the will of God. What is the will of God for you? Skip down to verse 29, for us to be conformed to the image of His son. All things work together for our good in accordance with the will of God, which is for us to be more like Christ. This has been God's will for us all along, this is why we were predestined, called and justified, so we can be secure that God is not leaving us or abandon us in trails. That is the next section, verses 31-36, that God is with us.

So, it's not that God works everything for our good so we will be happy, healthy, wealthy and wise. It's so we can look more like Christ. All things happen so we are more like Christ. Does that sound a little different that the interpretation of the TV preachers? You know it does.

Let's tackle one more, one of my favorites. Jeremiah 29:11. We love this verse, it's KLove's encouraging verse of the day. With this, I want to teach you two parts. First, we have the exegesis, which is the same process. We read the whole passage. God is telling the people of Israel, through Jeremiah the prophet, that they need to get cozy. They need to accept the exile for now, but God has a plan for the future. He isn't finished with the nation of Israel yet. Did you get that last part, He is working on the nation of Israel. Who is this verse too? Was it to the people of Babylon? Nope. Assyria? Nope. It's to the Southern tribe of Judah, not even the whole nation, it's to Judah, to the exiles. He has plans for those in exile. Should we take a promise made to a specific people at a specific time and make it a blanket statement for everyone? Hmmm.

Here is the second part. This was a promise to Judah, but it's in the scripture for a reason. This is important, because not only do we need to study and understand the correct meaning of scripture, but then we apply it to our lives. We do this by finding the timeless principle that God is demonstrating. God's nature is revealed in this passage, He is working and He has a plan. We know from Ephesians, chapter 2 verse 10 that there are works that God prepared beforehand for us. God has prepared a path for His people, both for Judah and for us. We see God's character that He has and knows the plan for us. We can't directly apply this verse because God doesn't  have a plan to give us hope, the hope is now given, we have the hope, which is Christ. We have a future, it's our eternal life with Christ. He has given us those things, so now we must walk in the path, the good works which God has laid out for us.

This process of study for the Bible may be a little longer, a little more complex but it's a much more accurate and rewarding that finding a verse that supports your idea and making the Bible conform to your theology. Let the Bible shape what you believe and how you think, this is key to having the mind of Christ. The Holy Spirit will teach you if you are a Child of God, and you will find great wisdom. The alternative is folly, and you don't want to speak of God what is not true. Just ask Job's friends.

Monday, November 14, 2016

When We Are Wronged

Have you ever been wronged? Like someone did something to you that was unjust, unfair, hateful, hurtful or just plain mean? You have, we all have, it's happened to everyone and everyone is guilty of doing it to someone else. We all hurt people, we hurt the ones we love and we hurt strangers and friends and allies and people around us. People have become pretty easy to hurt these days, just look at our college campuses. These kids are hurt if you don't have the same political ideology, it's sad.

In recent days, we have seen a trend of how to react when you are hurt. Riots, protest, fights and attacks, and of course the social media posts. People have lashed out in every way they can. People are struggling when they don't get their way and when something hurts their feelings. It's human nature, it's built into us as infants. Take a toy away from a toddler and see what happens (I don't really recommend that).

How should we, who are in Christ, react to being wronged? What does the Bible say about this? Jesus is pretty clear in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew Chapter 6, Jesus says "do not resist one who is evil, but if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also". (v 39). We are to show kindness to those who wrong us. We are to be patient and humble when we are wronged. If we are wronged by an unbeliever then we pray for their salvation and respond in kindness. If we are wronged by a believer, we need to go to them. We need to tell them how they wronged us, and help them see their error. If what they did was in sin, then we need to help them by showing them they need to repent and seek forgiveness. If what they did is not a sin, but still hurtful, then we find common ground. If they said something that hurt you, but they did not intend to hurt you, simply tell them. Explain you were hurt. If they get angry, then you have a chance to really disciple the person and help them grow in their faith. It's a great opportunity.

Hurt feelings are no fun, but they can be great opportunities for growth. Don't run from the hurt and don't run from and block out those who hurt you. That is not what Jesus commands, but He says to love those who persecute you, to bless them. Pray for those who would hurt you, reach out and build bridges. It's much better than burning them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Fear is Real, but It Doesn't Have to Be

When my wife came home from school today (She's a librarian at a public school) she told me some heartbreaking things. A little girl who I think is Hispanic asked Elaine is she heard that Trump won the election. She then asked if she thought she needed to run and hide. She isn't alone, many are afraid today after a Trump victory, afraid they will be put in jail, send away or killed.

People are afraid, and I don't blame the Trump camp entirely. Yes, Trump said some things in a pretty harsh way, but nothing that should make a little girl afraid. There is fear of deportation for illegals of course, but that was always the case, Obama did support amnesty but the law still existed.

Much of the fear in exists in the LGBT community, Mike Pence is not a great friend of the LGBT. In reality, the Trump campaign was mostly silent on the issue with the exception of the appointment of Constitutional Justices for the Supreme Court. The fear is not coming from the Trump campaign, but from the rhetoric used by the Hillary crowd.

Republicans aren't innocent, we have talked about the destruction that would come at the hands of Democrats, first Obama and Hillary. We talked about how Obama would destroy the economy and turn us all into Socialists. The economy is doing ok, and we are still Capitalists. Obama did some things I don't agree with, but he hasn't be the destruction of the country.

It's time to stop the rhetoric, we need to stop talking about the opposition like they are Satan or the Anti Christ. We are all Americans, we are suppose to be on the same team. The bottom line is, the children are listening, and right now they are scared of the elected Commander and Chief of the United States. This shouldn't be the case. I know I need to show respect to all those who God has appointed to lead, our current sitting President and the one who will follow. This goes for all our leaders and public servants. Let's stop the hateful rhetoric and behave like civilized humans.

Election 2016, What Did We Learn?

What happened last night shocked most of the nation, I'm sure the national media had the biggest shock. I was watching NBC, and they were very straight forward that they missed it. They had not listened, they were very wrong. There is no secret that the media in this country is left leaning, and they were clearly in the Hillary camp. The entire camp was shocked as Donald Trump took state after state last night. NBC was straight forward and Glen Beck was guest interviewed and shot straight himself saying "I have done a bad job listening".

What this election has shown is the country is upset, angry and no one was listening. This was a vote that sent a message to the media, the establishment and to the powers at large. They are tired, they are upset and angry. There is lots of anger, and I want to break down what I think the biggest points of contention and frustration are over. Again, this is my opinion.

First, I think that most Americans are unhappy with the liberal agenda. Increases in taxes, open borders, rises in health care premiums, and progressive policy. The majority of Americans are not progressives, they are not excited about the redefinition of marriage, late term abortion, amnesty or illegal immigrants, protests, riots and BLMs, and the increase in welfare. A majority of Americans want lower taxes, less regulation, more opportunity with less government involvement. That what they said last night, right or wrong, agree or disagree, this is not a liberal, progressive nation. Those conservative values still exist in many places, and the media and government has ignored it for too long. The Obama Administration ignored it, Congress ignored it and the Supreme Court ignored it.

Supreme Court justices was probably one of the biggest issues in this election, and America responded by saying "no" to the liberal nominations. America doesn't want late term abortion, same sex marriage, gun control and restrictions on religious liberty. America has spoken, and the media and the government needs to make some changes.

If you are a progressive liberal, it's time to realize that your voice, your opinion isn't the only one out there. Your view is not necessarily "correct", even though in your mind, same sex marriage and abortion are the "right thing to do", there are many who don't agree. They believe you are wrong, and it seems those voices are the majority of the voters in the United States. They have spoken, and time for progressives to step back and listen to conservatives for a change.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

On the 40th Anniversary of My Birth

I turn 40 today. I have lived in 5 decades and 2 centuries. I have learned quite a bit, most of all knowing how much I don't know. I have been part of some incredible things, and been humbled beyond all imagination. I have had my heart so filled with love and joy I thought I would burst and had my heart shattered into billions of tiny pieces like it was frozen in liquid nitrogen and smashed with a 40 pound sledge. I've gain and lost friends, loved and lost and been the hero and the villain.

Through it all, I have learned a few things. First off, what you do is important, but who you are is not limited to what you do. There are many who will condemn you forever for one mistake. God doesn't do that. If the modern day Pharisees were in charge, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, none of those men would be allowed to do anything because of mistakes they made. They would be "unqualified" for ministry. That isn't the economy God operates in. He uses murderers, adulterers, quitters, hypocrites, sinners to do His work to give Himself the glory. I think part of the reason that the church lacks so much power is because we are using the power of the "qualified" individuals and not using the losers. God uses losers and I want to be one of God's losers.

I have learned that good friends stay good friends. If you leave a job or change churches or move away, some friends will fade away. They were friends for a season. You need to have some of these friends who last your whole life, regardless of the separating factors. Also, if you can find a friend like this who has a beautiful sister, marry her. Worked out great for me!

Get a dog. As I write, Scrappy is laying next to me, snuggled up. He is a great dog. My other dog, Rowdy is outside because he lives us to his name, but he's just a puppy. I'll let him in when I'm done. There is something special about having a dog, they are the greatest companion. Don't get a pet store dog either, get a rescue dog from the pound or the Humane society. Scrappy is from a local rescue program here in Sioux City, and he is an awesome dog.

Read, especially your Bible. Read it. Listen to it and listen to preaching and study your Bible and take classes and talk about it and read it more. It will fix your life. Some things in the Bible are easier to understand than others, but that is why we study and listen and get tool and resources like commentaries. Nothing will impact your life like God's word, so spend some time there. It really has the cure for everything in it, and the answers to the most important questions. The meaning of life, who you are and where we came from, all in there.

I am sure there are thousands of other things I could share that I've learned. Love your spouse and love on your kids. Help people, share and let others help you. Get involved, do some stuff, help a friend, help a neighbor, help a stranger. Lots of stuff that is good advice and cliche, but more than anything, make sure you pray. Do something every day that is positive. If you feel depressed, struggle with the depression, don't just suffer from it. If you have conviction, change your behavior. Hope you are blessed and well. I love you all.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Update on my Physical Condition

In my blog, sometimes I share some personal information, so that is what I want to do this morning. If you follow me on Facebook, you know I've been having some back issues. A quick synopsis, I have a bulging disc at the L4, L5 vertebrae that is putting pressure on a couple of nerves and a nerve root. The doctors have said it's a very large bulge and it's leaking fluid, so there is a nice mass of stuff. The pain has continued to grow, I have pain in my back, down my left leg and my left foot hurts and tingles and has numbness.

I went to the doctor and got some anti inflammatory meds. They didn't help. I then got some steroids. They didn't help. I got an epidural flood. It didn't help. I went to see a spine surgeon, and he said I need to have the disc trimmed and take the pressure off the nerves. I have that scheduled for Friday, Nov 11th.

I'm ready to have the pain gone, it is getting progressively worse and keeping me from doing. . . well much of anything. I am a little nervous about surgery because, well it's surgery. I have had generally good experiences surgery, but my last surgery about killed me. My wife isn't real excited about me going into surgery either, our last experience wasn't a good one. My other concern is that what looks like fluid leaked out of my disc may not be fluid. There is a very small chance that it's a tumor. The doctor doesn't seem to concerned, but my dad had symptoms just like mine, and his turned out to be a tumor in his spine. I am a little concerned about the amount of cancer in my family.

If you are so inclined, you can pray for us in a couple of ways. First, I would really like some relief from the pain. Second, that surgery goes well and there are no other issues. Prayer for our finances would be appreciated, I'm off work right now and will need to be off for a few weeks post op. Pray for my family as they have to deal with me being out of commission for a while. Thank you so much for reading my blogs, for your prayers and support. I love you guys!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Are You Willing to Have Peace?

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18

We live in a day and age that self focus is pretty high on everyone's attention. We take care of ourselves, we are focused on self and what we want. It's safe to say that as time progresses, the generations become more and more selfish and self focused. One of the things that has fallen away is community. We have ceased to live in healthy communities because we are so selfish. College students are protesting everything they find offensive, which is everything. There are movements and protests about everything these days, because we all want to be taken care of.

If this reality we live in, we have a desire to be justified, to be coddled and if someone wrongs us, we want revenge. We expect to be respected and taken care of. We will demand our rights be taken care of, or all hell will break lose. This is true even among Christians. What this what Jesus demonstrated? Clearly not, He died on the cross to atone for sin, even though He never committed a single sin.

What would it cost to have peace?  First, each of us has to put aside our wants and look to the greater good. We need to consider what is best for the family, for the community, for the church, for those around us. Sometimes we have to give up what we want. Very few are willing to give up what they want. So often we fail to see the long term and we are not willing to have a short term loss for a long term gain. We must remember some important truths.

To gain, often you must first lose. Great things always come at a cost. Remember the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in the field. The people sold everything to gain these things.

Long term peace is healthier than short term justification. We will live a better life by giving up our rights in the short term.

Living at peace doesn't mean you have to affirm wrong behavior, you simply overlook an offense when possible.

I realize that sometimes peace is not possible. Sometimes you must defend the rights of another, and sometimes there is nothing you can do. Sometimes the other person is set on conflict, to which we are best served by turning the check and walking away. Remember to walk away from the trouble and towards Jesus. I'm praying we can all find some peace today. Blessings!