Archive for the ‘Christian Living’ Category

So, You Believe In God?

Posted: October 28, 2013 in Christian Living, Ministry

So, you believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder (James 2:19)
Many people believe in one God, in fact, most of the world believes in only one God. Polytheism is not as prevalent as it has been in the past. Hinduism claims about 851 million followers, which is approximately 13% of the world’s population. Christianity claims about 31% and Muslims make up 23%

Just as James says, even the demons believe in one God. They know God, who He is, and what He has done. They know who God is, but they don’t really know God. There is a difference in knowing about somebody and really knowing them. I can read books about somebody but I will never know them until I spend time with them. Generally, we understand this concept when it comes to people, but it loses a little in translation when we try to apply the concept to God.

Most of the people I know believe in God. It probably doesn’t hurt that I’ve been an active church member for years, but nonetheless, most of the people I know believe in God. Atheism is on the rise, but their worldwide population as of 2012 is just over 2%. The real problem is not that people don’t believe in God, although I do think there is a problem that that people don’t see a creator/designer in the natural world. The larger issue stems from those who believe in God, but seem to disregard what that entails.

What does it mean to believe in God but not know Him? A fairly simple way to gauge how we view God is by where we put our trust. As people, we tend to put our trust in ourselves, and our lives become mostly about getting more money.

We look to our jobs for our provision

We look to our retirement plans for security

Now, money isn’t the root of all evil; the love of money is. The mentality that you always need to have more fuels our greed. Money does not buy happiness. It can do wonderful things but it cannot make you happy.

What if we didn’t have to worry about money? What if we really didn’t have to worry about anything? God doesn’t want us to worry or be anxious about anything, but how is it possible to live like that?

What if we did more than just acknowledge God’s existence?

What if we decided to put our faith and trust in Him instead of ourselves, or our wealth?

For those of us who know God, we need to do these thing better:

We need to trust Him
We need to put our faith in the One who sent His son for us
We need to put our faith in the One who died for us
We need to put our faith in the One who was raised for us

What is it that we trust?

What is it that we trust?

When we put our faith in God, we realize that no amount of money is going to provide for us as well as God. When we put our faith in God, we realize that no matter how little money we have, God can still provide all we need.

Believing in God is great, but do you know Him, and do you trust Him?

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What breaks your heart? Are you moved by poverty? Is it racial discrimination that brings your blood to a boil? Do you hate seeing corruption everywhere you turn? Does your heart stir for orphans, or maybe it’s abuse victims that cause you turmoil? Most likely, all of these things bother you at some level, but is there something that really breaks your heart?

Our youth group recently watched a video of Bill Hybels speaking at a leadership conference. He was talking about what he calls our “Holy Discontent”, which is basically the one thing that really breaks our hearts and consumes us. Hybels says that great things can happen when you are absolutely wrecked by something. Not just mildly offended by something, or semi-interested in a cause, but absolutely wrecked by injustice. I may not agree with all of the things that Bill Hybels says, but I do believe that God wants us to get involved with His mission to rescue people. There are many ways to get involved, but you or I cannot do all of them. If we each work toward finding that which breaks our heart, and then allow that passion to grow into action, we can start to really help people. If we are all doing our share, we can really do great things for others. I believe that finding the injustice that breaks our heart the most is the first step in finding our calling.

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1152

What can we do if we all work together?

If I can find my one heartbreaker and focus my attention on that one thing, and if you could find yours and focus on it, and the next person could find theirs… and so on, how much do you think we could accomplish? God wants us to be intently involved in His story. He has gifted all of us and set within us a brokenness over one thing or another. Do you know what that thing is? Do you know what breaks your heart?

“I didn’t join the Army to pick weeds out of rock beds.”The words were spoken over a decade ago.  In fact, it has been almost 15 years since I heard them.  I remember the conversation well.  I was in jump school at Fort Benning, GA and there was a break in the training.  The Army doesn’t like to pay its soldiers to sit around and do nothing (especially in a training environment), so when there is a lull in legitimate work, special provisions are made.  Cleanliness is a virtue in the military, and someone has to make everything neat and tidy.  The task at hand was a simple one, and not nearly as degrading as spending an entire Saturday cleaning bathrooms.  Our task at the time was picking weeds out of a gravel bed.Sometimes we have to do things that sound stupid, or seem like a waste of time.  There are always tasks that we have to do that we just don’t want to do.  We are, inherently, selfish beings who have been told to look after number one.  We are groomed to put ourselves, our needs, our desires, above all others.  We are also told that we should bail out of any situation that does not bring us joy and pleasure.

Nobody joins the Army to pick weeds out of rock beds.  But sometimes picking weeds out of rock beds just so happens to be the assignment for the day.

This is how the Army determines success

I love to complain about things.  I’m not bragging about it, but I generally need to vent about whatever is frustrating me.  At times I can take things a little far, but I know that if I don’t say something about it, I just sit and fume about whatever the problem is.  I know I complained about picking the weeds, but there is a big difference between complaining and feeling superior to the non-enjoyable parts of work.  I did not join the army to do menial tasks in the hot, July sun but that was what I was told to do.  I was not too good for that job.

I just got back from standing behind a concession stand at an Ohio State University football game this afternoon (I like to wait a few days before I edit and post my articles for those of you wondering why you aren’t reading this on a Saturday evening or a Sunday morning) and honestly, I did not want to go and help out.  I was not being paid for it, and this was supposed to be my first Saturday to relax at home with my wife in far too many weeks.  I was asked by a very close friend of mine who needed a couple of people to fill up gaps in the team.  I reluctantly accepted and woke up way earlier than I wanted to this morning to get up to the stadium by 9am.

Once I got over myself; my lack of sleep, my lack of quality time with my wife… I was able to enjoy myself.  I may not have enjoyed running around and fetching hot dogs, waters, popcorn, pretzels and all sorts of other stuff.  I may not have liked getting up early on a Saturday.  I may not have wanted to spend eight hours away from my wife.  But you know what?  I love helping people.  That’s why I’m in ministry.  That’s why I work for a school district instead of a corporation.  That’s also why I showed up this morning.  Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do, because it helps others.  Someone has to serve food to hungry football fans.  Someone has to clean the bathrooms, and yes, someone even has to pick weeds out of rock beds.

My Jeep - stalking prey in it's natural environment

I love Jeeps.  In fact, I’ve had 4 of them (if you count the Grand Cherokee I had for 6 months).  If you count my wife’s Jeep, then I’ve had 5.  My current Jeep is a 2006 Wrangler Rubicon.  I love it, it’s by far the nicest one I’ve owned.  I had a CJ-5 in high school and I bought a CJ-7 just a few years ago.  I got rid of it and the Grand Cherokee to get the Rubicon when I decided owning 2 Jeeps was pretty unnecessary.  My love for Jeeps runs so deep, I even married a girl who owns a Jeep (hers is a 2007 Wrangler Unlimited for those keeping track).  Granted, that’s not the only reason I married her, but it was a pretty sweet selling point.

Now that I’m married, I have been thinking a lot about finances, specifically debt, and wondering if making payments on two Jeeps is a smart idea.  My wife and I have two car payments, a motorcycle payment, credit cards and student loans.  I understand that it’s not so abnormal to owe lots of people money.  In fact, I would venture to guess that you are in a similar situation. Although debt is normal, normal does not seem to be working anymore.  At least not for me.  I see a lot of people around me who are struggling financially, but have no plan of escape, and don’t have any idea how to even start to dig free.  I want to be in charge of my financial life.  My wife and I decided to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course and in it, we are learning about how to look at money from a different perspective.  To be honest, we just started the course, but it has already taught us a lot about money, retirement, debt, emergency funds, credit cards and savings.

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1499

I put a quarter in, but the loan on the piggy bank is $100 a month

My wife and I have been talking for a few months about our debt and how we plan on getting out of it.  We are both fairly impulsive with our money, and we both want need to make better decisions.  We both want to have more financial freedom and we both want to be able to give money to those who need it.  We also would love to be less tied down by our debt.  We want to be able to move around and do whatever we feel called to do.  We are sick of being stuck by our financial decisions.

We now have a choice to make.  Keep the Jeep because it’s fun, or sell it because it makes financial sense.  If I sell the Jeep, I can make enough money to pay it off and buy a cheap car with the money left over.  How willing am I to get out of debt?  How willing are any of us?  Are you out of debt?  Did you have to make tough decisions?  Are you glad you did?

I’ve heard that a lot, and as a Christian, I’ve said that a lot.  “II pray for you” is the Christian knee-jerk reaction to hearing anything from anyone.

  • You need a job, I’m praying for you.
  • Sick grandma, I’m praying for you, and her, and any other random family members who might be affected.
  • Hey, you lost a limb in a strange farm equipment accident, I’ll be in touch with the Big Guy, maybe He’ll get you a new one.

There is nothing wrong with praying for others.  Prayers of intercession (the ‘hey, look at me, I know big words’ way of saying prayers that help others) are an amazing way to support people.  Why would you not pray for those around you who need help?  All of us know people who have needs.  Whether those needs are physical or spiritual, we are all close to people who could use some prayer.  God is a big God, and why not spend some time talking with Him about the issues on our minds?  I love praying for other people’s needs.  It really helps me take focus off myself, and it reminds me that God is in control.

You know what else is a kind gesture to those in need?  Helping them.  It’s a novel concept, I know.  Some of you are probably staring blankly at the screen, trying to understand what that even means.  ‘Helping them? I’m not sure what he’s getting at.  I mean I said I’d pray for them, what else can I do?’

Not that prayer isn't good, but these kids might need some physical help we can provide right now.

When I see people around me who have needs, I pray for them, but I try to help them when I am able.  If they are feeling low, I offer an ear or a hug, or both.  If they need some money, I offer to help out.  I allow myself to be open to the needs of those around me so that I can be used to reach into their lives.  I get to use my gifts to help others, and I love it.

Where is the love?

Apple Inc. has made so much money during the recession that it is poised to beat ExxonMobile as the most profitable company on the planet.  This is not a statement against Apple, but a question posed to those of us who helped make that happen.  The unemployment rate is just above 9%.  Costs of goods and services are skyrocketing, and yet we spent so much money on unnecessary gadgets this year that we pushed a company that only makes unnecessary gadgets into a position to become the most profitable company in existence.

I have no problems with buying iWhatevers or iShinyThing#3 but where is our neighborly love?  Why must we force social programs onto the shoulders of our government?  If we, as ordinary people, took some time and helped those around us (volunteering at shelters, donating food and clothing, adopting and fostering children…) we wouldn’t need so many government programs.  There are so many people in the world with their legitimate needs left unmet, and so many people with so much excess in their lives, why don’t we give a little bit away to help those around us?

Prayer is an amazing way to help those around us, but we need to realize that sometimes there are practical solutions that we can provide to others.

James 2:15-16 - Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

Dear God

Posted: July 28, 2011 in Christian Living
Tags: ,

Dear God,

Thank You for all of the good things You’ve done for me. Thank You for all of my blessings. Please forgive me for the wrongs that I have done, to You and to others. Please help my sick family members and help my buddy’s dad find a job. Please help me to be more awesome. Thank You for being more awesome than I could ever be. Amen

P.S.

If You invited me to be a friend, why am I praying you a pen pal letter? Should I be asking you about how your summer is going, and what you plan to do when school starts back up? Should I ask you about camp, You probably have some really cool camp stories. Anyway, just thought I’d touch base. Life has been crazy but I don’t really have time to talk about it right now. Summer’s almost over. Tell everyone I said hi.

Dear God, I hope you like this. I made it for you in art class

I hope God really isn’t offended by that. Not because it’s sarcastic or something like that. I hope He isn’t offended because that’s how a lot of my prayers go. If I look back at most of my prayers, it seems to me that I am just too vague and lame. I am not “real” with God.  I acknowledge God as who He is, but talk to Him like He is only generally interested in me. I pray my little prayer and then I go about my business. Am I really praying if I do that? Is there some sort of disconnect if I don’t treat my relationship with God with any real reverence? Am I alone in thinking that my prayers are feeble and childish? I need to re-evaluate my prayer life, and tap into the true relationship I’m supposed to have with God. Maybe you do, too, but I know I do.

Freedom

Posted: June 30, 2011 in Christian Living, General Life

FREEDOM

Go ahead and look at that word again.  Stare at it for a second and let the word sink in.  Everybody wants freedom, but what exactly is freedom?  What makes someone free?  What do we do with freedom once we obtain it?

The U.S. is built upon the promises of freedom.  Freedom of speech, religion and press are the foundation upon which we built our nation.  We fought for these freedoms, and in many ways, we still fight for them.  One thing that bothers me is that I think we have lost sight of what freedom really means.

In the movie, The American President, Michael Douglas’ character says, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours”.  When you think of freedom, is this how you imagine it?  That is freedom of speech.  If you want to be able to say things, you need to allow others to oppose your ideas.  If you believe in something, there is probably someone out there who disagrees with you.  True freedom is allowing others to speak their minds.

I am a Christian.  I believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  I also believe the Bible is true.  Some of you are not Christians.  Some of you believe the Bible is a book of fiction.  Some of you believe Jesus was just a guy, others just a prophet, and even others don’t believe He even existed at all.  Some of you believe that there is no God, while others believe we all are God.  There are many different religions and theologies out there.  Most of us are pretty stubborn about our beliefs, not just in our convictions, but in our conversations.  We may not agree with other faiths, but do we have to be so angry toward others when they tell us what they believe?  We don’t have to berate those who disagree.  Just like the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion gives everyone the right to believe what they choose.  That freedom is important.  If God gives us the right to choose, and the Constitution gives us the right to choose, who am I to take that choice away from you?  I can offer my beliefs, and defend my choices.  I can even try to convince you that you should believe what I do.  What I don’t have is the right to tell you what to believe.  I don’t have the right to force you, or coerce you into believing what I do.  I can’t beat you, kill you, threaten you, round you up and imprison you for disagreeing.  We all have the same rights to believe whatever we choose.

Civil discourse.  My favorite type of discourse.  I love to debate, to exchange ideas and thoughts about almost everything.  I am fairly opinionated, and usually very stubborn, but I try to listen to what other people say, and try to understand where they’re coming from.  I enjoy hearing multiple sides of an argument because it helps me learn.  I like learning why people do things the way they do, especially when they do things that I wouldn’t, or do things in ways I wouldn’t.  It would be amazing if everyone else enjoyed a good, tasteful debate.  Think of how the political arena could be if the candidates could just say that they don’t agree with their opponent.  “Hi, I’m Joe Awesome and I’m running for Congress.  I think that my opponent, John Supercool, is a great guy, but I just don’t believe that his thoughts on balancing the budget are what we need at the moment.  Now, here are my thoughts on the subject…”  That would be so much better than the hateful and disrespectful exchanges we are subjected to during the political process.

If these guys can laugh together, surely we can find common ground with each other

We live in a world full of different people.  Those different people have different viewpoints, different experiences and different approaches.  Here in America, we have the freedom to express those differences.  Embrace those differences and especially the freedom we have to express them publicly.  Freedom isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort.

Yeah, if only campaigning was done with this much smiling