Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Things in my life don’t always go as planned.  If I had things my way I’d be a full-time youth or young pastor right now.  Well, maybe I’d be a rock star, or maybe  even an Apache pilot.  I would not be still working in IT.  I like computers, but I love people.  I enjoy meeting people, growing relationships and helping people.  I believe that’s why I enjoy ministry so much.  The crazy schedules and events, the to-do lists, all of that stuff takes a huge toll on my life, but the rewards are worth the price.  Seeing teenagers and young adults grow is why I do what I do.  Like I said before, I would love to be a full-time youth or young adult pastor, but I’m content with the way my life is right now.  Would I like my life to look different, of course I would, but that’s not what God wants for my life right now.
Image: graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If only this is what computer work really was

Sometimes we look to God as if everything He does for us should make us happy.  I don’t believe that though.  I don’t think it’s biblical at all, actually.  God doesn’t always shield us from danger or tribulation.  Jesus says in Matthew 10, “…anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”  Those are some strong words from Jesus.  What I believe He is saying is that following Him is not easy.  I also believe that to think that stronger faith equals an easier life is just wrong.  The apostle, Paul, knew this better than most.  In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul writes, “…Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

Paul knew that his suffering was the cost of his ministry, and he counted it as joy to suffer for Christ.  His resolve was strong, and his faith even stronger.  He knew that faith did not always lead to a trouble free life, but Paul knew what was truly important, following Jesus.  A life of faith and obedience can (and does) lead to a hard life.  We have to die to ourselves, daily (sometimes even hourly, or even minute by minute) to allow God to work in our hearts and in our minds.  Sometimes that process is easy, but usually there is struggle and pain involved.  Our joy comes from God, not from worldly happiness.  We will lose things we don’t necessarily want to lose.  We will battle our own wills, our personal idols, our desires and even our childhood dreams.  We will have to bury our own ideas of comfort and stability to know that true comfort and stability come from God.

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Love is…

Posted: March 31, 2011 in Christian Living
Tags: , , ,

Jesus says in John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands.” Sounds like simple logic to me. As simple as it sounds, the concept kind of goes against a lot of the current thoughts on love though. We want love to be some sort of pretty thing, where our feelings lead us on paths of wonderment. We cast aside our logic and reasoning for the warm, fuzzy feelings and goofy amorous befuddlement. It sounds great, right? We can get caught up in the imagery of love, and forget that love is not always poetically sweet and emotionally soothing. Love can be hard, it can be a struggle. Love can even be, dare I say it, boring and monotonous at times.

Back to the words of Christ. “If you love me, keep my commands.” Does that seem to speak to the poetic, emotional, wondrous feeling of love that usually bounces around our minds? I don’t know about you, but the love Jesus talks about seems to reach out to something deeper, something more substantial. The love Jesus embodies speaks to a higher level of devotion. Jesus speaks of a love most of us have never even thought of, let alone attempted. Jesus says that love puts others ahead of oneself. If we love others, we are to serve them and put them first. If we love Jesus, we are to serve Him and put Him first. We are to keep His commands.

It makes sense if you really think about it. If you believe that Christ is who He says He is, why would you put yourself before Him? If you believe that He is above all things, and that He knows what is best, why would you even think about disobeying Him? If you believe that He is looking out for you, and that He cares for you, and that He is able to provide whatever you need to accomplish anything He asks of you, why wouldn’t you obey Him?

Jesus said that narrow is the road that leads to life. Maybe that’s because it is hard to love like He calls us to love? Maybe it’s too hard to keep His commands? Maybe we just love ourselves too much and don’t want to give up control? Whatever the reason, we need to put Him first. It is our biggest act of love, and our greatest act of worship.

I am reading through the Bible again, and I’m in Leviticus right now. It’s a great book, but one that causes a lot of people to give up on their “Bible in a Year” plan. It contains a lot of specifics and rituals that bog people down, but if you can back away from the rituals, themselves, and see the big picture, a lot can be gleaned from the text. If you want, you can check out my last post on Leviticus 9 here.

Anyway, on to Leviticus 13. The stuff that has to happen in the lives of people in the Old Testament is pretty, how should I put it…. intricate. The rules to follow, the painstakingly precise measurements and strict guidelines, seem almost impossible to get right. Again, just like in Leviticus 9, I am glad I don’t have to do these things to follow God. But, also like Leviticus 9, I believe that there are principles and ideas that transcend the strict guidelines, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

In Leviticus 13 God gives Moses and Aaron the steps to take for determining the cleanliness of the Israelites. Specifically, God is talking about defiling skin disease, but the process is pretty interesting. When someone feels like they have become unclean, they go to the priest for an assessment. From there, the priest spends time inspecting the person and seeing if the person is unclean. If he is unclean, the priest is supposed to give instructions and then (and pay attention to this) check up on him. The usual, initial step is to give the guy a week and see what happens. The priest comes back after seven days and reinspects. This process continues until the man is clean. An interesting piece of information is that the unclean man is kept away from the others while he goes through the cleansing process. God works on him away from the other people to protect them throughout the process.

Is this how we take care of peolpe today? Do we take those who are in need of help and help them until they are “clean”? Do we continue to investigate and help others until they are restored? These are questions I ask myself as I deal with people who are in need of help. I try to spend a lot of time working with those who ask for and need help and support. I try to be there for those around me so that I can help restore them.

I have even asked people to step away from ministry for a while to give them time to be restored. Restoration is a big part of healing. We tend to turn our backs on those who fall short of our standards, but we rarely do anything to help them get back on their feet. I have seen many people stumble, and I have seen many of those people let down by those around them. Ministry is about reaching out and restoring people to a right relationship with God. How are you accomplishing the mission?

I have been thinking a lot about prayer lately. With the devastating tsunami wreaking havoc around Japan, lots of people have been praying and encouraging others to pray. I love hearing people talk about prayer. I believe that we have the open ear of the omnipotent God. He who created existence allows us lowly buffoons to talk to Him. What an amazing privilege and what an astounding honor.

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But, how are we supposed to pray? For what are we supposed to pray? For whom are we supposed to pray?

Those are my questions to myself, and I guess, my questions to you. I believe that we have a responisibility in our prayer life. I believe that prayer is a very personal and intimate thing. Even in corporate prayer, there is a bond that forms between people when we talk with God as a group. It is a beautiful thing, prayer. As beautiful as it is powerful.

Jesus modeled prayer for us in Matthew 6: 9-13 “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your Name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”.

I like to use that as a guideline, but there are other things I feel the need to pray about. In fact, it feels like I have lots of other things that need prayer.

  • My relationships need prayer, sometimes a lot of prayer.
  • The young adult group I lead needs prayer
  • The youth group I lead needs prayer
  • I have issues that I face in my own life that also need prayer

I sometimes feel like I ask for too much, like a kid who isn’t happy with their new bike because I really want the blue one. Sometimes I feel as though I keep asking for help and forgiveness about the same things over and over again. Sometimes I think God is bored with my prayers, or maybe I’m missing something.

I would really love to hear your thoughts on prayer. I would really love to start a small discussion about how we pray. Am I alone in looking at prayer as a great mystery? What do you think? How do you pray?

Winners Always Want the Ball

Posted: November 11, 2010 in General Life
Tags: , , , ,

As I promised in my last post, there is a second line from the movie, The Replacements, I really love.  You can check out the first post here.  The second line is spoken by Gene Hackman’s character, Jimmy McGinty.  As a coach of a bunch of replacement professional football players, his job is to quickly take a group of has-beens and never-was’ and turn them into a real team.  The star player, former OSU quarterback, Shane Falco (played by Keanu Reeves), choked in the big game back in college, and that fear followed him into his new stint as a pro player.  Throughout the movie, his fear keeps him from taking risks.  He is more afraid of failing than he is hopeful to win.  His fear cripples him.

After a crucial play gone wrong, Falco is called over by McGinty.  When asked about the play change, Falco responds with “I read blitz”.  McGinty responds with “Winners always want the ball… when the game is on the line”.  McGinty knows that fear will keep a man down.  He also knows that to overcome that fear, to seek a goal and to push to win is what separates the winners from the losers.  It just boils down to one thing.  Winners want the ball.  Everyone screws up.  Everyone fails.  Everyone looks like an idiot sometimes.  Winners get back up and try again.  They do not let fear keep them from achieving.  They want to win, they want to try again.  Especially when things are tough, and when there is much at stake. Winners always want the ball.

I know in my life, I screw up a lot.  I don’t always make the right decisions.  I sometimes allow a perceived blitz to force me to hand the ball off to someone else.  But I want to succeed.  I want to win.  I can sense my own fear, but I try to use that fear as a force forward, not as a push backward.  I am not afraid to make mistakes, even though I still make them from time to time.

If you can see your own fears, and your reactions to them, you can start to change the patterns in your own life that keep you down.  If you start to notice these patterns, try changing them.  Look at your life and try to learn from mistakes.  Don”t let your past mistakes keep you from trying, and don’t let possible future mistakes keep you from moving.  I know that God is on my side, and I know that when all is said and done, I cannot truly lose.  If you know that He is there for you, what do you have to lose?

Where Faith and Life Collide

Posted: September 15, 2010 in Christian Living
Tags: , , ,

I had an interesting discussion this past week with some friends about faith.  It seems that faith is a word that gets thrown out a lot in our modern Christian culture.  People talk about needing more faith, living out our faith, acting on faith, sharing faith… the list goes on.  We, as Christians, talk a lot about faith, but do we really live out faith?  Do we really have true faith?  I believe we do act in faith, but in what are we putting our faith?  When we really look into our lives, where does our faith reside?  Do we really trust God?

In Matthew 6, verse 24, Jesus says “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”  Jesus is speaking to our faith here.  What we serve is where we place our faith.  We have a choice, to serve God or to serve the world.  I believe too many of us are wrapped up in serving the world that we don’t even realize it.  We put a lot of faith into things like college and jobs, retirement and healthcare.  Now, these things aren’t evil, or anti-God or bad unto themselves.  It’s the amount of faith we put into these man-made institutions that needs to be weighed.

I would like to delve into these topics a little more on their own.  I have a tendency to write too much, and try to fit everything into one package, but to do justice to the thoughts I have, I think I’ll continue this by breaking it down into a few parts.  Hopefully this topic will pique your interest.  Hopefully it will help you to examine your faith.  Hopefully it will help you draw closer to God.  This is the interesting part of Christianity.  This is where we put our money where are mouths are.  This is where we see if we truly believe what we say we believe.  This is where faith and life collide.

If you know me, or have read this blog before, you might have heard that I own a new puppy.  Even though he’s still just a puppy, he is starting to behave.  It’s been a while since the last time he peed in the house (a milestone I am very happy about), and he’s listening to commands better every day.  All in all, things are improving.  We are starting to build a real friendship, and the future looks promising.

Here is the problem.  Every night I dream a dream.  It’s always the same dream, too.  I am standing in a room in the house, and Gabe is looking at me.  He gives one of those looks where he tilts his head to the side while maintaining eye contact.  Then he turns away from me, and it happens.  Every night.  Same dream.  He starts peeing on the carpet right in front of me.  He knows he’s not supposed to do that.  He saw me, acknowledged me, but yet still decided to relieve himself as he saw fit.  He knew it was wrong.  He knows it is wrong.  He did it anyway.  I wake up from the dream mad and confused.  Hey, why did he do that?  He knows better.  What a bad dog.  What a stupid dog.  Eventually I remember it’s a dream, and after a few minutes, I go back to sleep.

The other day I was thinking about my recurring dream and how it kind of angers me to that my mind keeps playing tricks on me.  I wondered why I kept dreaming the same annoying dream.  I just don’t understand why my head is stuck in this loop.  I have to keep reminding myself that it’s just a dream.  Gabe knows better.  He isn’t doing that anymore.  He has the self control to go to the door and wait for me to let him out.  He knows it’s wrong to pee inside, and he doesn’t want to upset me.

Then it hit me.  My dream is about me, not my dog.  It’s about my relationship with God and how I respond to Him and His standards.  My three month old puppy understands what it’s like to be a Christian better than I do sometimes.  He knows that he needs me.  I feed him, provide shelter and love.  I also provide the structure and the discipline that he needs to be a good dog.  He sometimes gets a little scared and he looks like he feels a little guilty at times, but when I smile at him and spread my arms, he comes running to me.  He knows he’s forgiven.  He’s learned a boundary, but he knows that I love him.  He doesn’t want to do anything to make me mad.  He loves it when I love him.  He loves it when I am happy with him.  He doesn’t enjoy me being angry toward him.  The whole idea seems pretty straight forward to me.  And from my perspective, it should.

Why can’t I be more like my dog?  I know what God wants, or at least a lot of what He doesn’t want, from me.  I know the boundaries He has set for me.  I know that they are there to provide me safety and to help me, not to hurt me.  He disciplines for my benefit, not for my detriment.  I love it when I am doing what makes Him happy, but I don’t hate it when I’m disobedient.  I don’t run into His open arms like Gabe does with me.  My dog seems to have a better relationship with me, than I do with my master.  I think I’m more like the dog in my dream.  I don’t think I’m alone, either.  I think most of us put up with our own disobedience far too easily.  What do you think?