Saturday, December 27, 2008

Alien

I have the honor of being able to speak at a friend's church tomorrow evening. I wanted to post my sermon notes here. Hope you get something out of it. Thanks Jake!

So we’ve been going through this identity series wrestling with this thought of who are we. The general idea is that God gave us all an identity and we have been trying to make substitutes for what we already have instead of just accepting it. We are created so we don’t need to try to create ourselves, we chosen by God so we don’t need to seek man’s approval, we are servants, and we are forgiven through Christ, there is no earning that. So we come to end of this series about our identity and I want to really do some history here and really get a grasp on our identity.

God created the world and everything in it (Genesis 1).

Man was created in this beautiful Garden and even given a wife. God actually walked in the Garden with them (Genesis 3:8- Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…)

So from the beginning of time we were created to have this beautiful relationship with God. We didn’t even know what sin was, so nakedness didn’t even bother us. We were walking around bucked naked having a good time with God in the garden. There was no sin. That is hard for me to comprehend. But just like any good love story there is always the jerk who comes in and messes things up. God, Adam, and Eve were having this great relationship and along comes the serpent who lies to Eve and causes her and Adam to both question God and chose to disobey Him. They ate of the one tree God told them not to. Adam nor Eve had this toddler instinct to do what they were not told because they didn’t know what wrong was, so they were fooled into sin.

So there are two things you need to know about God. He is an all loving God, but He is also an all righteous and just God. God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden once sin was born into the world because if they would have stayed there they would have lived in sin forever. This creates a big dilemma because God can’t be around sin. His righteousness can’t touch sin. It’s like water and oil, they don’t mix!

The implications of this original sin are huge! Paul sums up how that day affected the rest of the world and its history in Romans. (Romans 5:12- therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned)

Now the whole world is full of sin. Again God can’t do sin, He just doesn’t do it. So in order to get to God man has to be blameless before Him. After we messed up the relationship and our identities though, after we separated ourselves from God by sinning, God was always and is still trying to call us back to our one true identity. God chose Israel out of all the people on the earth. He chose to be their God and make a promise to their people. He chose Abraham and promised to bless him with a nation. He gave them the Ten Commandments in order that they could know Him and live unlike any other people on earth. Then if you are really feeling dangerous you can jump into reading Leviticus (my favorite person study of the Bible was when I went through Leviticus actually, for real) and you will see all these other things that God tells His people to do and build in order that they would be separate and able to come before Him by obeying all these temple worship laws and ordinances. God creates this whole separate nation deal. A nation and Him, His people and Him. But, like always, people start complaining about things and start crying about not having a king. God warns them of all this and tells them what having a political king (like a person, instead of Him) as their king would imply and after they still insist He gives it to them, a king. By following all the things God gave them to be and do they would be separate people. In God’s law they would have an identity. They were not pleased with this identity and sought after their own, trying to be like the other nations. They are steady seeking an identity in the face of God trying to tell them who they are, that is why he was separating them, to show them their identity. God gave them all these things that separated them and allowed them to come before Him.

God left a hole in that system though; He left a hole to point towards something else. See this sacrificial system was never ending the Jews always had to go back and get right with God, they always had to make these sacrifices in order to be able to speak to God, to be His people.

Now we live in this world that is now plagued with sin because of Adam and are in constant search of our identity right? We can all recite John 3:16… (John 3:16- God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life) God loved the world so much. This word world is Greek kosmos, it means the entire universe. He sent his son to die for it because it was full of sin. The world and its values are sinful now. So people born of the world are sinful. Natural man is sinful…the kosmos is sinful…it is not of God now because of sin. God is just but also loving. A completely just God can have nothing to do with sin, He must punish it, there must be consequences. Well, God is also loving so He created a way to fix the problem we created by choosing to betray Him.

So because the kosmos is sinful God sends Jesus to save it from its sin because there has to be a way that God can get to us without breaking His own nature of being Just, so He sends someone else to die in our place and continues to chase after us, giving us a way back to Him. We don’t have to do all those sacrificial laws anymore, Jesus died and was the perfect atonement sacrifice and has covered our sins.

Jesus is speaking to His disciples and praying for them and says something strange though.

John 15: 19/If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

John 17: 14-18/ I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

What does it mean to live in the world, but not of it?

Of in the phrase of the world is the Greek word ek which means a primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence action or motion proceeds), from, out (of place, time, or cause; literal or figurative.)

In Jesus’ prayer He actually says He is sending us into the world after He says that we are not of the world.

Jesus tells Nicodemus that he has to be born again. (John 3:5-8- Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and of the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, You must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.)

So being born again means you are born of the spirit and your ways come from it. Like the wind Jesus refers to, the sound of the wind and where it blows, its actions and ways tell you where it is. So our origin of Spirit is seen by our lifestyle.

So being in the world but not of the world is simply saying you are in the world, among it and its people, but your origin or preposition is from the Spirit. Once you have this Spirit you have peace with God (Romans 5:1) Having peace with God and being born of the Spirit, the same spirit that he breathed into man when he created us would get us back to where we started right? Well not exactly because everything and everyone else now still has sin. So now we can have that relationship with God that we had in the beginning but still live in a sinful world.

There was this Russian Orthodox Church last year that took refuge in a cave for several months, they completely separated themselves from society because they wanted to follow Jesus so close. I don’t think that is what He had in mind. So how do we live in the world but not be of it without being freak’s and weirdo’s? Well, part of it is that we will be a little odd, but for the good, not the bad. Following Jesus calls us to do some crazy things, but all those things help us live life to the fullest, the abundant life Jesus talks about. We are called to forgive, not complain about things, find joy in suffering, help the helpless, give our money away. I call it the beautiful upside down backwards Kingdom.

Being in the world but not of it is actually just getting us back to the identity we were made to have. We were never created with the intentions of living with or among sin, we were never meant to even die or get sick. God created us to be in a perfect relationship with Him. We are all born missing that because of sin. Jesus offers a way to be born again, a way to be born of the Spirit and get back to the way we were created to be, in a relationship with Him. Because of that we will do things and live a certain lifestyle will shine like start among men. We will be noticed by the lifestyle we live. The lifestyle following Jesus is so far from what those who don’t know Him is (the world) that we will be noticed by what ours looks like. So we can live a life that reflects Jesus and our originally intended identity, but still live among sin.

How do we do that? That is seeking Him in his word, following Jesus practically. This is our identity. Our identity is not of this world, it never has been, it never was intended to be of sin and brokenness, once we find that identity then we are full, even though we live among sin. It is letting God and the Spirit dictate how we live our lives, it means practically living the Bible and Jesus’ ways out the best we can in our world. I will warn you though, don’t think just religious practices will do it. Jesus jumped all over the Pharisees for stuff like this, He even told them they were of their father the devil. Religious acts look good, but without the genuine heart to back them, they mean nothing.

What this whole being in the world but not in it deal boils down to friends is your identity and I’ll ask you where is your sense of identity? The world sells a lot of cool looking toys that captivate our imagination only to disappoint us, God has given you a unique identity, Jesus died so you could get back to the way things were meant to be. You are either lost and have an identity crisis or you know your identity and live it out among those who don’t know theirs. Those are the two options. Where do you find yourself? I pray that you would seek to get back to the way we were created to be and give up all these dead ends and fancy toys that let you down, all these false identities and seek Jesus.

Obsessive Cumpulsive Insomnia

I’ve stared at the ceiling, leaned back in my desk chair, finished listening to 7 different music albums, prayed, and cannot go to bed. This all started yesterday, this peculiar insomniac-like behavior. I normally go home (Jacksonville, FL) each for Christmas. Last year I went for Thanks giving, but stayed here for Christmas, but stayed with my best friends Carl, Danae, and their kids (Mariah & Isaiah) who are pretty much family. This year however, I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas and on top of that the Bunso’s aren’t here nor are the Pride’s, so I am up here for the first time in my life spending the holiday alone.

I really wasn’t trying to concentrate on that on Christmas though. After work on Christmas Eve, I ran to the store, bought myself a Pizza, a movie, and groceries to cook myself breakfast on Christmas morning. I came home and watched a movie, ate pizza, cleaned out my refrigerator, washed all my dishes, danced in the hallway, prayed, journal, continued reading in Isaiah, and started a book I wanted to read (which is a change from actually having to read instead of actually wanting to because of school). My mom called at one point and asked what I was doing, I had music blaring in the background, walking around the house half dressed because I was in the middle of trying on several outfits I was considering for this New Years Eve Masquerade Ball I am going to. She said, “Boy you are crazy!” I told her I wasn’t crazy yet and that is exactly what I was trying to avoid in being home for Christmas alone. Well, I stayed up until like 2 doing things here and there.

I woke up Christmas morning around 9 and cooked myself breakfast. I had biscuits and gravy, sausage, a sausage, tomato, and cheese 3 egg omelet, and some V8 juice. After that I cleaned up everything and got dressed. I called my mom and brother to say hello. I actually got to have a good 30 minute conversation with my sister’s boyfriend about Jesus that was awesome! Read a little bit more in Isaiah, wrote in my journal, and started reading a book for personal enjoyment. By this time it was around 1 and I caught myself falling asleep at my desk leaned way back in my black chair with my legs propped up on my bed. Well, about 3 hours later I woke up with my book on my chest. I got up and got ready again, I have to do it again once I fall asleep, don’t want to smell like sleep and have sleep lines on my head or face you know. Around 5 I picked up Jazz and Maria and drove down to Ben’s house to have a Christmas dinner. I wrote about my experience on the drive there and back downtown in my last blog, Fruit. I met up with a friend from work and watched Benjamin Button. I’d say that the artistic element of the movie was cool, there was a lot of allusion and illustrations that I’m totally into, but the overall plot left a lot to be desired. I’d say save your money and watch that baby when it comes out on RedBox. Came home and kept myself occupied until about 2 again. That was my very weird 2008 Christmas day. I’ll tell you the truth though, I spent the majority of my morning with God, either in His Word, prayer, or just listening to music or sitting in silence. I think that is an appropriate way to spend Jesus’ birthday, with Him…

This morning I woke up around 9, but decided that was way to early to get up so went back to sleep and didn’t get up until 11. I ate some breakfast and called the gym to see if they were open. Sweet sassy molassy they were! I got there and zoned out to some music on my ipod and worked abs, biceps, and shoulders. I heard a familiar pitter patter from upstairs as I was leaving the weight room and noticed they were playing 5 on 5 basketball. I decided to sign up and get a couple runs in. The first game I did nothing but get offensive rebounds, like I was a bog man or something, but I think they were just trying to see if I was any good before they started getting me involved. The second game I ran the floor and scored 13 points and snagged 3 steals. Cool thing about today and playing ball was that I wasn’t wearing any braces, both ankles and knees completely natural and I actually felt good afterwards for a bit. My ankles and left knee are tight now, but it was well worth it. Got home and met up with Ben to go over our sermon for Sunday. We are preaching together on Nehemiah chapter 10 and 11. After that I went to SBux and read my book for a bit and talked to my friends who work there and that hang out there as often as I do. I was getting distracted with all the traffic after the Lion King show let out, so I decided I go do something I actually enjoying doing alone…shop. It is girly, but I’m totally comfortable with my masculinity and can openly admit I like to shop and buy new clothes. So I bought a couple sweet hoodies, this gnarly old school looking cardigan, a hat, and some new razors so I can be well shaven come Sunday and the New Years Eve party. After that I went back to SBux and got to chapter 9 of the book I’ve been reading.

Now here I am. It’s 3:17am and officially Saturday December 27, 2008. By now you are probably wondering what my point in all this writing is… Well, since I got home I’ve cooked dinner, cleaned the kitchen, done two loads of laundry, cleaned out the laundry room, swept the floors, cut my own hair (maybe not the best idea I’ve ever had), organized my closet, sorted through clothes I haven’t worn in a while and made a huge stack of clothes to give away, shorts, hats, cleaned my shoes, organized my drawers and refolded every t-shirt I own and organized them in several categories, DKNY, BFL, H&M, American Eagle, plain colored t-shirts (H&M), and Express. I also coordinated my closet into sections; dress pants, casual pants, jeans (those are subcategorized into two designers, DKNY & BFL), winter coats, track-style jackets, light jackets, casual blazers, and hoodies, sweater vest, zip up sweaters, plain long sleeve shirts, designer shirts, regular sweater, casual button down shirts (those are split into pattern and solid colors), dress shirts (also separated by solid colors and patterns), short sleeved button downs (I only have two of those because I think they are weird in general), plain colored polos, patterned polos, and finally sports jerseys (basically all my jaguars gear). I’m currently listening to Sigur Ros and a bunch of other instrumental music trying to go to sleep but can’t! So now I am backing up my entire computer on my external hard drive my parents mailed to me for Christmas.

I want to sleep but can’t! This insomnia is feeding obsessive behaviors…lol. I’m just trying to keep myself busy to maybe I’ll just fall out. Then I had this brilliant idea that if I wrote about everything then I’d be exhausted because I would have stopped my mind from thinking a million miles per second. It might be working because I just yawned.

Good night or should I say good morning! I need to get back into a good sleeping routine because I do have to preach Sunday and be at work on Monday. Lord help me! This is probably the most random blog I have ever written, so if you think I’ve gone off the deep end, know it is just sleep deprivation and me being weirded out by not being around my family this holiday season. I’ll write something cool soon, but until then enjoy laughing at my randomness.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fruit

The Lord calls us to plant seeds and never really promises to show us the fruit of our labor. So we go about life living for Christ and spreading the Gospel in faith that He will bring about the fruit that we may never see. There are these special moments though when we see it, when God reveals to us the work He has done through us and by us, in those moments it is a true reward. There is nothing more pleasing to me than seeing the fruit of a faithful labor, there is nothing that makes me happier than seeing and hearing stories of people affected by Jesus and fully sold out because of it.

“The devil can’t handle me…that’s why I’m going through this.”

One of my favorite quotes to end the year. Her kidneys are failing and she has lost a drastic amount of weight, the picture is pretty muted for her. What a beautiful picture of faith though. Her name is Maria. Almost like a child who is excited about their birthday she exclaimed to me yesterday on the ride down to a friend’s house, “You know I’ve been saved for almost two years now!” I don’t know if I see anyone enjoy what they are doing more than when I see Maria on a Sunday morning helping out with the kids. She’s a true servant. She says the devil can’t handle her…this makes me smile from ear to ear! She gets it, she gets that she is living for Christ and no matter what happens, even if her kidneys fail tomorrow she is faithful and sees herself as a threat to the enemy. Maria didn’t know anything about Jesus when she first started coming to IMC, but she loved playing with the kids. Through that she met folks who answered questions she had and now she is following Jesus with all her life.

Maria was in the backseat while Jazz occupied the front seat beside me. I asked Jazz her story and she said about 2 years ago she came back to the Lord because she was just lost and had come back home. She grew up a Christian and was even a missionary in her younger days, but somehow fell away from the Lord. She said it had been 2 years since she started following the Lord. Her eyes were filled with joy as she told the story of getting baptized last year on Father’s day.

They both said how they started going to this church service on Sunday mornings around the same time as one of our dearly beloved friends who has moved on to be with Jesus, June. Both Jazz and Maria live in a building full of all kind of things like drugs, alcohol, abuse, terminal illness, and physical disabilities. Their stories are light in that dark building.

This guy got a burden for the city of Indianapolis about 5 years ago, resigned from his pastoral role and moved from the sunny coast of Jacksonville, FL to downtown Indianapolis with a burden and a dream. God moved me to follow him up here and start this church. Over a year we saw a team building and now almost 2 and a half years after we moved here with many others and partnered with a lot of great people in this city, we are seeing and hearing these stories.

I just smiled and listened the entire car ride back downtown from my friend’s house as they told more and more stories about all Jesus had done in their lives. I don’t think they see it as a big deal, they probably won’t even remember that car ride, but I tell you the truth, that was one of those moments where God pulled back the curtain and showed me what He has been doing. You don’t always get to see the fruit and just work with faith. It is truly rewarding when God shows you the fruit though. Maria and Jazz both have striking stories of their journeys of faith and I’m thankful God showed me something amazing like that on a car ride. A I drifted to sleep last night I whispered to God, “Thank you for all you’ve done, thanks for showing me.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

In View of...

I have been given the great opportunity to speak at my local church's Sunday morning gathering this week (Dec 28) and have been wrestling through a passage and here is what I've come up with. I hope it touches you the way it did me. The picture you see is actually a present day photo of the wall Nehamiah built, still standing strong today!

Nehemiah 9:38- In view of all of this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites, and our priests are affixing their seals to it.

In view of what? The entire prayer in chapter 9 is remembering their history with God and all He has done with for them.

So chapter 10 starts by listing out a bunch of names of folks who sealed this new agreement/covenant. They bind themselves to these oaths. The funny thing is that as most people are reading this they probably see that they are coming up with all these new things to do for God, but they are just giving themselves over to His Law again. These are not new things they made up they are renewing their commitment to God and His Law (Gen-Deut).

They end their contract with: “We will not neglect the house of our God.”

Nehemiah gets news from one of his brothers that Jerusalem is in great trouble and disgrace. Now to Nehemiah this meant that God’s people had turned away from God and disgraced Him and the land He gave them. He cries out to God and God leads him all the way to rebuild the wall and we arrive in chapter 10. Now there is this flourishing city of people in a safe place, with a wall, following and practicing God’s Law and spending hours and hours just listening to His Word read by Ezra.

I check my watch in some church services. I see other people do the same thing. I have a book shelf that is evidence of me being a nerd at home. I have the internet and so many other resources that these people didn’t have. Seriously they stood around and just listened to God’s Law being read aloud and celebrated! Now, here we are in 2008, almost 2009, and we can barley “find” time to pray or read our Bibles? I think that the typical American Christian is in the same place Nehemiah found Jerusalem, especially this time of year. We have forgotten God, we have let His wall around His people be taken down and disgraced. So maybe we need a little history lesson too. Maybe we need a little reminder too. Maybe we need to go over all God has done for us so that we will turn back to Him and renew our covenant with Him.

God created man, man sinned and so God had to throw him out of the garden and could no longer look at him because he was sinful. So God gave man a bunch of laws and such to allow man to have a relationship with Him as long as he was blameless at the time according to the Law. This Law was just pointing to something greater to come. God sent His son to the earth. Jesus lived 33 years on earth. He was as close to God as we can imagine because He was/is God. He was from the beginning. Well God allowed Jesus to be murdered even though He didn’t deserve it. So there Jesus was beaten, bruised, and broken hanging on a cross. So I want you to stop and listen to me for a minute. Whatever you are doing, drawing, texting, looking at your watch, thinking about going back to work, about football, whatever it is stop and listen, like really listen. God has been eternally connected to Jesus, never been apart from Him. Jesus was hanging on the cross and God turned His back on Him, God allowed Jesus to suffer and die. I mean can you imagine having to watch your son die, many of you are parents…imagine that. So God allowed Jesus to die just so He could have a relationship with man again. Now we are given the opportunity to approach a Holy and Righteous God, by believing in Christ. This is huge! I can’t talk specifics, why this doesn’t happen or why this does, but I can tell you that is what God did for us, He did this for all men and only ask for us to put our faith in Christ and He will forgive us. No matter how many times you screw up, no matter how bad you think you are, no matter how little people tell you that you are, God loves you and thinks you are beautiful, you are worth dying for! God totally separated Himself from His son and watched Him die for you.

What kind of covenant are we talking in 2008, almost 2009, obviously it isn’t full of these little festivals and such that ancient Israel had. Nope, here it is…Jesus ask you to follow Him. Can we renew our covenant to Jesus? If you have never told Jesus you are willing to deny yourself and follow Him, that you want to know Him and be forgiven, can you do that, can you sign that covenant? In light of all He has done, we should be lining up to do so now. Like the Israelites in Nehemiah we need to renew our agreement with Jesus (God)!

Roots

Hello friends and family. As much as I do miss living in Jacksonville, FL and being within minutes of family and everything I grew up knowing, I am fortunate to be in Indianapolis. When you are removed from what you’ve always known you find freedom to be your own person and have or start your own traditions. Everyone has Christmas traditions and most revolve around a family, but seeing as I have no immediate family (wife or kids) I have started my own little simple Christmas tradition. I am not into greeting cards because it is hard for me to find a generic card that express exactly how I feel. I mean what are the chances of that anyways, some stranger saying exactly what I was thinking to who exactly I was thinking about. Those chances are little to non-existent. So here is my tradition…Yea, you are looking at it, this letter, it is my tradition I’ve started. Nope there is no present attached or on its way, there is no gift certificate, check, or cash you have overlooked. This is it, just evidence of my heart through words.

I am all about roots, as you all know, I am very analytical and always trying to figure things out, so naturally, I’ve done a ton of research and thinking about this whole Christmas thing and been left desiring more. I mean it can’t all be about nasty fruit cakes, pecan log rolls, over priced candy, lights, decorations, a unique tree, ornaments, presents, debt, and stress. I mean there has to be more to it. And I know that 80% of the American population will say that the reason for Christmas is the birth of Jesus who was sent to save the world. That shouldn’t be a side note said in a monotone, unexcitable voice though. That is the point of Christmas PERIOD. So all this other stuff has really confused a lot of people and distracted the attention away from sweet baby Jesus (yes indeed that is a Ricky Bobby quote!). So I want to take a moment and really share wit you the truth of Christmas. Yes, this will be full of the Bible, because that is the book that talks about Jesus, so naturally it will be used. I’m not trying to preach or make you do something you don’t want to. It is my personal conviction that I must share this truth and rally people back to the point, the root of it all. So please read on, even if you think you have it all together and figured out, just do my this favor read it!

God created man and woman, walked in the garden with them and everything was perfect. Then Adam sinned and ever since then the world has been full of it. Sin is what we are all born into. Now, you may think that you’ve never murdered, stolen, or done drugs so that is good enough, but there’s more. Sin is anything that falls short of perfection and God’s will. So no one is perfect so we all sin. So that should have been the end of the story. Man betrayed God, so he deserves to die. Well, for reasons I can never understand God loves us. God chose to kick Adam and Eve out of the garden so they wouldn’t have to forever live in sin. So ever since then God has been chasing man down trying to forgive Him and renew that broken relationship. God basically cannot deal with man because we are sinful so He set up all these laws and sacrificial systems in order that man could be forgiven under conditions, but would always have to follow these deals in order to get forgiven. Basically all that left room for Jesus. The Bible talks about the coming of the Christ, the Messiah of Israel back in the Old Testament a lot. God has been eternally connected to Jesus, never been apart from Him. Jesus was hanging on the cross and God turned His back on Him, God allowed Jesus to suffer and die. I mean can you imagine having to watch your son die, many of you are parents…imagine that. So God allowed Jesus to die just so He could have a relationship with man again. Now we are given the opportunity to approach a Holy and Righteous God, by believing in Christ. This is huge! I can’t talk specifics, why this doesn’t happen or why this does, but I can tell you that is what God did for us, He did this for all men and only ask for us to put our faith in Christ and He will forgive us. No matter how many times you screw up, no matter how bad you think you are, no matter how little people tell you that you are, God loves you and thinks you are beautiful, you are worth dying for! God totally separated Himself from His son and watched Him die for you. So Christmas is a celebration of God sending His only son to earth so that you could be forgiven and have a relationship with Him. Forget all the religious things you are unsure of or the past times you have been hurt, forget everything for a minute. God sent Jesus to die so man would be able to be forgiven forever by putting their faith in Jesus Christ and renewing that old broken relationship we were born with. Sure there is a lot more to it than that once you say, “Sweet I want that relationship with God, I’ll take Jesus!” but the most important thing is that you know that Jesus was sent to earth, cut off from His Father, just to die for you so you could get back to God, the way we were created to be anyways.

Merry Christmas, I pray you will celebrate this, the birth of Jesus. I know there is a lot going on this season, but I really hope that you stop and reflect on that and remember that Jesus is born, man doesn’t have to live in disconnection from God any more, God sent His son to heal us. Jesus is that baby lying in the manger, celebrate His birth this Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Last Update of 2008!

This morning I woke up and it was one. No, not one o’clock, one degree Fahrenheit! That is what the thermostat read, now with wind-chill it was -15. Awesome right? Most days I say no because it is just plain cold. Now when it snows I still react if it is the first time I’ve ever seen it. I love the snow, it is so beautiful to watch. I was driving back from the airport today, I dropped Dan off around 4 and as I approached the city I just exclaimed to God, I love this city, thank you. Even though it is in the middle of the country far form any beach and depressingly cold right now, I love this city. God has given me the heart for Indianapolis and that is why I weather this storm, I stick around through the cold, through the rough times. I know God has me here for now. How do I know that right?

I’m always leery of people who say they heard from God. I have serious doubts about a movie preview-like voice coming out of nowhere in English saying something to a specific person. I think the Bible is complete and lacking nothing so God no longer needs to speak to man this way. Anyways, that is another day another conversation. I’m sitting in my little coffee shop with a friend the other week and we start talking about fasting. He asks me to fast with Him. He is a good friend so I agree. Seven days later I found myself looking at the most beautiful chicken breast, broccoli, and mashed potatoes I had ever seen to break my fast. So through these seven days of denying myself in order to hear from God, I actually did! Read Isaiah 30. He used that chapter to speak to me about seeking His plan instead of my own. It was a cool experience. It was most exciting to see a room full of men gathering in a small cold room at 630am to pray on the first day. My friend Allen and I met the most to pray in the morning. It was awesome to see so many men seeking God by fasting and praying. I’m totally convicted about being people of prayer in the modern church. That was so exciting to me and I think fasting and praying should be within the lifestyle of following Jesus, He said that we would stop when He returns, so He is not back so who said stop? So that’s my most recent adventure with God.

I’m preaching at Indy Metro Church on Sunday Dec 28 with another guy from our church. Then that night I’m preaching at the church my friend is the pastor of. As much as I want to teach and really speak and explain God’s Word to people I am very cautious to not get ahead of God and seek personal gain. I look to gain nothing from speaking and hope that God would use it to speak to people about what He is saying in His Word. I am excited about the opportunity to finally get to do it at my own church though. I pray that God would continue to use me in this way.

Nope, no girls right now for those of you wondering. It is funny how within the first 10 minutes of any conversation with someone who is not in the same city as I am this question arises. I fell for one, there have been few that made me excited, feel like I couldn’t breathe, or stop thinking about and I will wait to find one that makes me feel this way. I know it is God’s desire for me to marry and have a family, I’m just not sure of the timing and specifics, so until He makes them clear I will wait patiently. It is hard some days I will admit. It’s tough to find a girl that loves Jesus and makes you feel like you are floating. So the pool is smaller, but it’s there…lol. So yes, I’m praying for one and keeping my eyes open. Someone who I love makes me laugh by telling me I need to be praying with an ay and ey, like pray for a woman, but also prey for one. It makes me laugh to write that, but at least I can laugh at myself.

I’m finally done with my required graduate classes at Crossroads Bible College! Church planting and Christian college fall into the same category, you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy, but you wouldn’t change it for the world. I mean, it is amazing how much I’ve learned and gained by being at that school, but it has been at the cost of sleepless nights, burn out on Christian psychobabble, traditions, and exposing of my own short comings. I have 31 elective credit hours to take and I will be going to a local college to do so next semester. I plan on taking classes I want to, like guitar, photography, basketball, world religion, public speaking, psychology, sociology, and other things I am generally interested in and think that will help me become a better rounded person. I’m excited about getting towards the end, but almost have anxiety attacks thinking about having to pay on my student loans, but I guess this is probably the smartest debt I have gotten myself into, it is more like an investment.

I continue to fortune thrown my way at work. I’m still working for Safeco, which is going to be Liberty Mutual effective 01/01/2009. This was some big time accusation of companies, but works for the best I guess. I am now a scheduling analyst. That basically means I am over a region of field reps. Basically I monitor their day of inspecting vehicles that have been damaged by accidents and provide them with help as they need it. Totally don’t deserve it, but God opened a ton of doors on this one so who am I to turn something down… My boss and others always tell me how innovative and helpful I am. I’m praying that God continues to give me favor in this company so I can continue to move up and be more of a person of influence. I still have conversations about Jesus at work all the time, I always challenge people close to me to think about it instead of just brushing it off. I love having intellectual conversations with folks about Jesus.

I’m still a Big Brother too! It’s been almost two years now and I care about this kid a ton and can’t imagine my life without him. I am praying God will use me to teach him about Jesus and influence him in a positive way.

I am still the urban man around these parts. It’s funny to me to look back on how I grew up and see myself now. I live downtown, know everyone by first name in the local coffee shop that I’m in at least 6 days a week, rock cool hats, chucks, designer jeans and t-shirts, and walk everywhere. Not much has changed and yes I’m still attempting to rock a poor excuse for a beard…lol I’m all about the local music scene so I am always looking for cool shows to go to. My favorite spot is a little joint that is smoke free and only has like a $6 cover to see normally like 3-4 shows. I’m into a lot of different music though, my favorite has to be along the lines of Sigur Ros, Cyril Morin, and Oliver Pryslack right now.

Christmas and New Years plans? Well, my plan for Christmas is to do as little as possible honestly. There are so many things that can be distracting from that quiet baby in the manger. I really want to use that day to celebrate His birth, so my plan is to wake up in the morning and spend the day reading, journaling, praying, and just listening to some cool music and just hanging out with my Father (Jesus). New Years, I am actually going to a masquerade ball. It is pretty swanky, black tie event with masks. So it should be fun, it’s a city-wide event and tickets are $60 a head so it should be groovy. I miss all my friends and family back in Jacksonville and Tampa tons and hope this little update helps you gain a little access into my crazy little world up here. Please always feel free to email me or write me, I’m all about receiving unexpected letters form people! Email is aslope@gmail.com and physical is 234 E 9th St Apartment 105 Indianapolis, IN 46204. Have a Merry Christmas and a safe New Years. Any other specific questions?????

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Projecting Assumptions

Assumptions without clarifications leave broken hearts and messes everywhere...be careful what you assume or judge...you could be wrong.

Chew on that for a bit and as you digest it, think about some assumptions of people you have and what that causes.

So I’m having this conversation with someone I consider to be becoming one of my friends the other night on Facebook chat. We are having a pretty interesting conversation. At the end they say they are sorry for being a jerk and that they are not frustrated with me but themselves. I told them thanks for being cordial but I didn’t buy that for one minute. They end up fessing up and say that they will tell me why they are frustrated with me and that it may be a little offensive. I’m always up for a good heart to heart so I say, ok shoot. Apparently I said something that offended them and they had not told me. This caused them to be frustrated with me and that makes perfectly good sense, harboring things creates bitterness which creates tension in relationships. So I ask why that offended her and she told me she assumed that I was trying to say something that I actually had no intentions of. Sorry for the vagueness of the conversation, but I will always keep things like this anonymous. Well, my interest was peaked not because of what I said because there was really nothing said horribly offensive, it was the assumption about my attitude or heart behind it that captivated me. So here’s the question I asked, “Why do you automatically assume I think that?” So here is the conversation…it is kind of long, but hopefully you can stand it long enough to kind of put yourself in it:

ADAM: me too friend...but I know even if I close my eyes and cry along the way...God is in control and as long as I follow Him I will be victorious...
living in "my world" sucks because people assume I think I have it all together or that i dont have problems or that I am arrogant, but it is the world I choose to live in the path i follow, the path of Christ

FRIEND: haha yeah, thats exactly what i assume

ADAM: most do...people who read my blog tell me sometimes they think that when I write i think i know it all...lol...I love when people assume that I assume soemthing...lol

FRIEND: haha to be honest, i think that a lot when i read your blog

ADAM: yup...so it goes that way but i can't help what others think...I know where my heart is and God does to, so I just keep grindin
this is why it is hard for me to find close friends

FRIEND: why?

ADAM: because people assume they know what I think...people think they know what I think and then judge me...but i wont stop doing what I do unless it offends Scripture

FRIEND: hmmm, interesting, i guess in a way thats true...

ADAM: yeah...it is terribly isolating
not something i love to talk about...but it is what it is

FRIEND: i mean, when i first started hanging out with you guys, i was hesitant to talk to you much because i felt like i couldn't be myself around you. because i felt judged. and i guess by assuming you were judging me, i was judging you...
twisted


ADAM: ding ding ding...genius!lol...so now that we are being frank with each other....what made you think that?

FRIEND: i don't know... let me think for a second....

FRIEND:ok, i don't know how to say this without being offensive

ADAM: please...i can handle it

FRIEND: haha right. you're a man. got it. :P

ADAM: nah not like that like please asking you to

FRIEND: ok, its comments like, before when i said that even though i know God's opinion is the only one that matters, but i still have a hard time ignoring the opinions of others... i was being vulnerable. but your response was about how you DON'T struggle with that issue...

ADAM: ok...so that makes you assume what?

FRIEND: i was being vulnerable because its an opportunity to connect with someone humanly. but by telling me that you don't struggle with that, in my head, it puts you up on the next level. you don't struggle with the things that i struggle with. you've got more faith than that.

ADAM: ah so it has nothing to do with me then right?

FRIEND: hahaha wrong

ADAM: lol...I think it is funny that peoples own insecurities get projected on others. there is nothing wrong with struggling....I struggle with different things that you may not but just because you don't i will not assume you are better than me or think that you think you are

FRIEND: ok, you asked me why people assume you judge them. i'm trying to explain. try to listen.

ADAM: i am please continue

FRIEND: a lot of times i get the feeling that you give the "right" answer, rather than a "real" answer

ADAM: how so? again we are moving back towards your assumptions

FRIEND: of course we are. but you said that its not just me, right? others make these assumptions about you as well?

ADAM: right im trying to explore why these assumptions exist...if it is something I am actually doing or just them assuming without clarifying with me before they talk off on this fantasy ride of false assumption and emotions

FRIEND: ok. don't you think it might say something that many people make these same assumptions?

ADAM: yeah but I still can't get a straight answer to what causes these assumptions outside of more assumptions

FRIEND: how you present yourself.
done.
straight answer.

ADAM: so change myself in order to fit the needs of different insecurities?

FRIEND: no. look in the mirror and try to see what everyone else sees.
adam, i think you are a great guy. but i don't think you always portray yourself that way.


ADAM: i have these conversations and no one has ever given me anything but i think and i feel and i assume answers...that doesn't help me

FRIEND: but thats what we're talking about. we're talking about the way that you make people feel. what people think of you. what people assume about you. and all of those things are, yes, formed by the person doing the thinking, feeling, and interpreting. but they are also very strongly effected by what you say and do.
so you could just say that people are making wrong assumptions about you, or you could look at WHY they make those assumptions, and work on that

ADAM: thats what I am trying to do...but I cannot accommodate people's view of me if it is based upon them having an insecurity which it always is

ADAM: alright im done...too much for one night. see you in the am

FRIEND: yeah, alright, but keep thinking about this, ok? i think its important

ADAM: i think it is if there is an answer but to chase your own tail is pointless
emotionally draining

FRIEND: hahaha i tend to have that effect sometimes. sorry bout that

ADAM: nope don't be you are who you are and I accept you...I will only tell you to change if it offends Scripture.

FRIEND: hey. thanks for being willing to be a little vulnerable with me tonight.
i'm glad we're friends


ADAM: night

FRIEND: and i'm sorry if i've judged you.
gnight


Ok, so I know that I have a problem with being too upfront sometimes. It is all in love, but sometimes people just aren’t ready for it. So I will openly admit that is a thing I struggle with and that I have to ask God grace for each and everyday. The focus of this writing is not speech, although the way Christians speak is a huge deal. The point of this writing is to hopefully take you into self examination of your own library full of assumptions you let dictate and guide your thoughts and actions.

Regardless of what the situation is, can it be right to assume things about people without discussing it with them or at least telling them you are starting to assume things? In this case, just like three others I have had this year the person gets offended by my bluntness and holds it in and becomes a little bitter. So they take that miscommunication and hold it in and then they let that little offense effect everything else so then they just have this general attitude towards me that I can feel. This is only me though, think about tense relationships you have. Do you need to air something out? Do you need to confront that person before a simple offense turns into bitterness and assumptions?

If these things are not handled right when it happens in the appropriate setting or timing before you go to bed, bitterness happens and gives birth to assumptions. Now the assumption was based upon another assumption they had. You see how this builds into a nasty nasty thing? So her offense was based on an assumption that I tried to simplify her problems to a list…that assumption is based on the assumption that I think I know everything…that assumption is based upon….that is still out to be determined.

I think this all has to do with a simple idea called projection. Philosophers and sociologists think they are pretty slick with their cutting edge ideas, but are actually a little behind times. When I was taking a couple sociology classes at a state college I was attending in Florida I learned of this term projection. Projection is basically casting your insecurities on others. Here is another way of putting quite well said by a good friend of mine, “The contempt we hold for other people's tendencies usually isn't a reflection of their poor character--rather, it's usually an indication that we see some part of ourselves in them and despise it.” Again, true statement. James was truly the originator of this idea, read the book of James and when you come to the beginning of Chapter 4 you will see this idea of projection laid out.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.

What causes these assumptions? What causes these disputes and fights we have? It is us wanting something but not having it, it is us having some kind of flaw and seeing someone who does not have it and becoming angry, it is us projecting our insecurities on others. Assumptions are interesting because they are this little internal thing you keep in your mind hidden from others until something happens that exposes it and then it makes a whole mess of things.

Again, I am not saying I don’t have flaws and things I need to look at within myself. There is responsibility on my end of things. So this is not saying there is no wrong on my end. But again, like I said above, this blog is not about that. This blog is about why people, including myslef have assumptions in generally, not just specifically to me. So the warning I will offer about my blog from here on out is that you do not have to agree with what I say or what I think. You do not even have to read my blog. So if you have assumptions coming into things or reading stuff, be cautious of them because they could be wrong.

Do you have battles in yourself over your own desires? Do you want something, but don’t have it? Do you see strength in others where you are weak and want that? I say yes, I do this and I say yes, you do too. We all do what James warns us against, that is why he warned us against it. What’s cool about this is that it doesn’t end in scorn alone. James says that we don’t have because we do not ask with the right motives. If we seek God within His will and seek Him with our all, He will give to us freely all that is good in His will. I am an extreme critic of myself, when things happen I ask what I did, how could I have done or not done something better or worse, where is my wrong in this all. I challenge you to examine yourself for things you lack. Do not let these wants cause assumptions which always end up in quarrels. May you seek God for what you do not have. May you love others. May you always seek to resolve offenses right away and before you go to bed. May you always be leery of your assumptions, they could be wrong.

So I say again,

Assumptions without clarifications leave broken hearts and messes everywhere...be careful what you assume or judge...you could be wrong.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Street Anthem Christmas

This is a poem/song I wrote.

Tears freeze when the hit the cold concrete because it’s only 30 degrees where he calls home. His body trembles in response to withdrawals of the demons he injects in his arms. The scars, the tracks remind him daily why he’s not loved and has lost it all. He shakes his cup in desperation just to spend a night in the shelter of warmth, but the smiling faces pass him by and look away because of those scars. Bitterness eats him alive as he walks the streets hoping to die. This man has no home, has no love, he has no one. And props himself against the wall and stares all around at the pretty lights and falls asleep in the cold of the night. Merry Christmas my friend, God bless you, please smile, goodnight.

Taking a deep sigh of relief because the last little one fell asleep. All in a days work to tuck in three little girls in one small room with no heat, making sure the blanket covers their feet. It’s Christmas eve and she sits in the living room in disbelief because she hasn’t eaten in three days and this is the first time in 6 weeks she’s been able to rest her feet. She’s been working 3 jobs and putting in overtime just to buy presents to put under the tree so the little girls will wake up in the morning to be surprised by the amount of gifts that weren’t there last night. Faking a smile as she says good bye, she must seem happy it’s Christmas Eve night, but she comes home after a long day with blisters on her feet and heavy eyes full of pain. Merry Christmas my friend, God bless you, please smile, good night.

The picture is now distorted by the ripples and crinkles caused by the tears and tightly clinched fist gripping a memory of a loved man. It’s the first night in 60 years she’ll spend alone with no one to catch her tears because her husband just passed. The pain is worse because no matter how hard she cries or screams tonight her husband won’t come back and she’ll still sleep alone. It’s getting late now, she needs some rest because in the morning she must put on her best face and act like it’s all okay, the grandchildren need to see a smile when they awake. So tonight she falls asleep holding a picture tight, drowning in tears, wishing she could go back to better years. Merry Christmas my friend, God bless you, please smile, good night.

There’s a little baby boy in the back of the manger, laying in a feeding box surrounded by strangers knowing one day He’s going to grow up to be put to death to give you hope. He can feel your pain nailed upon the tree, He can feel you crying when He’s in Gethsemane, He offers you hope amidst the dark cold world as He rose from the grave.
Look past the presents, the fear, your past, the pain, look upon Jesus, the true meaning of the day. So Merry Christmas my friend, God bless you, please smile, good night.

Black (Christmas) Friday

I’ve officially decided to not partake in the traditional American Christmas celebration this year. This has been a boiling desire over the last three years. Two years ago the only reason I had a Christmas tree was because my mom and sister-in-law came up and demanded for me to have one. I will admit it was fun to be there with them and clean, set up decorations, and eat freshly baked cookies. Last year I spent with my best friends Carl and Danae and their kids, so I relied on their decorations. I’m no scrooge, but I have some serious problems with this whole idea of what we have turned Christmas into. READ THIS STORY. I was reading this story about a man who was trampled by shoppers in order to get to these killer Christmas deals. This was no small man, he was 6”5” and weighed 270 lbs. That is the size of a NFL player and he was pushed over and trampled by a crowd of smaller less powerful people. I read the story and heard about it on the news and couldn’t do anything but be quiet. Not just the fact that an innocent life was lost, but the reasons behind it. Think about the root of the problem. Man dies in Wal-Mart…why? Trampled by a crowd…why? They were so excited to get to great sales…why? The retailers know that people will go crazy and buy large amount of goods and take out credit cards in order to get these great deals…why? People are stir-crazy about Christmas shopping on Black Friday…why? They think or feel the pressure to fill the bottom of a tree up with presents…why? That’s what Christmas is about. Woah woah woah…hold on a second now….the reason this poor guy was trampled is because of Christmas? What is Christmas?

So quick side note. It is called Black Friday because back in the day, like WWII, times retailers were always operating in the red. In the red means negative, so there was no profit. The day after Thanksgiving the surge of consumers pushed the red budget into the black or positive on their books. That is the simple explanation for why it is traditionally called Black Friday. I think it’s called Black Friday because it exposes the evil that is called greed. But read on for more on that opinion.

Here is the unadulterated Christmas story. Read Luke 2, in the Bible. Surprise surprise…Christmas is simple; it is a celebration of the birth of Christ. It started as a special mass the Catholic Church put on and thus the name Christmas. So how did we get so far away from that? I’m trying to put together in my head how a bunch of psychotic American shoppers got trampling a man to death in the scurry to get to items to give as gifts from that, from the birth of God on earth. It is a little overwhelming. You know they call this time of year the most depressing and stressful for many American families. Why? Why do we just accept this statistic without thinking about why it exists? PEOPLE ARE DYING ON THE FLOOR OF WAL-MARTS BECAUSE WE DON’T THINK! The reason it is so stressful is because families go into debt to buy all these gifts for each other. Parents that cannot afford to buy it cash go in debt because they believe the standard has been set by upper class people with money enough to buy these expensive gifts. The single mom of three kids works 4 jobs in order to just buy enough gifts for her kids. She’s depressed because she is all alone and now in more debt that she cannot afford. The homeless man sits on the corner feeling like a piece of trash because everyone walks past him with bags full of clothes and toys for themselves, but won’t even look him in the eye. How is all this a celebration of the birth of Jesus?

No tree goes up in my apartment this year. I’m not buying people gifts. What for I’m not celebrating them, it’s not their birthday. I’m not going to get involve din the shopping madness. I refuse to indulge in such activities while there are people dying because of it. In 2007 there were 147 million shoppers on Black Friday. The average amount spent per person was $347.44. Let’s do some math… 147,000,000 * $347.44 = $51,073,680,000. That would be FIFTY ONE BILLION SEVENTY THREE MILLION SIX HUNDRED EIGHTY THOUSAND DOLLARS! I laugh out of total anger right now! We live in a world full of oppression and poverty beyond anything we could fathom. The poverty in the world makes our homelessness and poverty here in America look like princes and castles. That’s just in one day folks! In one day American consumers spent trillions of dollars for what?

Not for the birth of Jesus…that’s for sure. What are your Christmas traditions? What do you think Christmas is about? If you hold to the truth that it is a celebration about the birth of a savior, Jesus the Christ, son of God, then examine your behaviors this time of year, are they really to celebrate Him? I tell you a tradition I’ve started…I write long letters to everyone close to me (family and friends) and tell them how much I appreciate them and how thankful I am for them. In that letter I always go into a little discourse of how this holiday is to celebrate Jesus and why He is important. Another tradition I am going to start this year is finding a homeless person, take them to the mall, buy them a nice warm outfit, then take them out to dinner. I am going to spend time with them and tell them what this season and holiday is about and the reason for me being so kind to them. I am going to go into nursing homes and spend time with the sick and elderly. I am going to do as much as I can to celebrate the reality that I am free from death because of the birth of this sweet baby Jesus.

What’s Christmas about to you? May you seek to know Jesus and celebrate Him this season. May you not get lost in the hustle and bustle of the ugly materialistic society we live in.

Now, if you celebrate Christmas by buying family and friends gifts, good for you, just don’t let that consumer driven compulsion drive you, let the reminder that Jesus is alive motivate you!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Chocolate

This little fella was written March 21, 2005...

I work in an insurance office with 13 women. I’ve learned so many funny and helpful things about women along the way. Not only have I learned about women, but I have learned about the affects stress can have on a person, how people cope with stress, and quick fixes for stressful days. The common wives tell is that chocolate relieves stress. There are also lavender based lotions that supposedly relieve stress as well. I am amused daily by watching these women run back and forth to a bucket of chocolate bars on a desk in the corner of the agency all in an attempt to relieve just a little stress. “I need chocolate!” is the cry you hear across the office as the day progresses. Who knew Hershey’s could be a stress relieving remedy? Is chocolate their only hope, is the sweet bar sitting in that bucket what they really need to turn to in times of stress? As funny as it is to watch the pandemonium play out, it also bothers me that in times of stress or weakness they run to a candy jar instead of God (who is much sweeter than chocolate!). Simply observing this chocolate craze for stress relief made me reflect on what God wants for us pertaining to stress. God wants us to turn to him in times of stress, his love never changes no matter what we go through or what stressful situations we face, and he promises that you can through all your burdens upon him and he will take care of you. Will the cry for chocolate ever change?

I am not referring to myself as any kind of great person or saint or anything like that. It is funny though to watch the difference in the way they handle stress and they way I handle stress. The one major difference is my strength lies in the Lord not Hershey’s or Godiva. Stress is not something God doesn’t care about. I had a young lady ask me before, “So, when you became a Christian, you gave your life to God, did all your problems stop, did you just all the sudden become stress free?” The problem is that Christians have put on such a front, such a façade, that the world thinks we don’t have problems or stress. I told her that I still face stress, temptation, all the things she faces, but I turn to God in those times, not drugs, alcohol, sex, or peers. Christians still encounter stress, so of course, God knows this and address it in the Bible. Take a look at Isaiah 40:30-31. It says people will be faint, weak, and fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall mount on the wings of eagles! Eagles soar high and their wingspans are extremely large. God compares those who look to him in times of great stress to soaring on eagle’s wings. We will soar above all the stress and others who are stressed when we turn to God. You can also see in Philippians 4:6-7 it is very apparent that if you pray and keep your focus on Christ that you will be blessed with the peace of God. Now, you may be thinking, okay great so when I’m stressed turn to God. That’s a really cute thought Adam, but why should I even be stressed if I have given my life to Christ?

When you are going through stressful situations do you ever feel like God doesn’t love you as much? This reminds me of myself when I was a kid. If my mom would not buy me something or give me exactly what I wanted I would go on a rampage screaming, “you must not love me then!” Did my mother not love me when she did not buy me those sweet ninja turtle pajamas? Of course not, her love is not based upon stupid things she buys me, it is based upon the fact she’s my mother and loves me unconditionally. With God it is almost the same. I say almost because we got a much nicer deal with him. He sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to earth to live 33 years that would lead to his brutal death and crucifixion and resurrection. I do not look upon any situation without thinking of what God has done for me already, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Now, here comes the part where everyone says, “Well, if God loves me so much, why does he put me through things?” Well take a look at Deuteronomy 10:12-13 and this may clear things up a little. It basically says that all God requires of us is to fear our Lord, walk in his ways, serve him, love him with all of our hearts and souls, and to obey his commandments and statutes. Easy enough right? We have been given a list of things God wants us to do and/or require of us. Now, we understand that, but when we are put in the situation we think God doesn’t love us as much because he wants us to obey him, follow him in this place or decision we have arrived at. Here’s the truth: God cannot contradict himself, he will never be inconsistent. In 1 John 5:3 it says the commandments of God are not burdensome. In 1 John 4:16 it says, “God is love.” With God being love then every thing he puts us through is for our best and has love behind them. For us to say, “God has put me in this stressful situation because he doesn’t love me as much,” is to say God is being inconsistent. We are saying God is not being loving. If God does not love then he ceases to exist. God is love therefore everything he puts us through is with love. We may not understand or see where he is going, but he is God, our little minds cannot grasp a fraction of what he has planned for us. Now that we understand that God loves us and everything he puts us through is because he wants the best for us, but we just may not understand we can move onto what he promises us in times of stress.

In Psalms 62:1-8 God promises that we can cast all our burdens on him and he will be our rock and we shall not be moved. That is comforting to me because amidst all the stressful things I can encounter I know that if I look to the Lord and cast my worries upon him I will not be moved. It’s like being in the middle of a storm out in the deep blue sea, but being anchored down by the best anchor in imagination. After all the waves are done smacking us around, blurring our view, making us cold and sick, and discouraging us we will remain in the same place as we did before the storm came. We will not be moved! Cast your cares upon the Lord and you will remain on the rock of salvation, with Jesus Christ. My favorite Psalm is Palmas 118:6, it basically says I will not fear for God is with me, what can mere mortals do to me? Now that is strong! What can any stressful situation do to me? God promises that no stress we face can move us, nothing any mortal can do beat us, for we have Jesus on our side. So looking to the Lord in stressful moments, you are promised that you will not be moved, you will remain on the rock of our salvation, Jesus, and that my friend is not a bad place to be.

I pray every day now that this bowl of Chocolate will cease to exist, not because I hate chocolate, I love chocolate. The dark bittersweet kind is my favorite. I wish the dependence upon chocolate would disappear and the stressed women that run around my office would see that Jesus is the way and he will get them through any stress they can imagine. My prayer is the same for anyone who does not know Jesus as their personal savior that they can look upon Christ for all their worries. He desires for us to turn to him in times of stress, he loves us unconditionally and always has our best in mind, and he promises we will be strong upon his foundation. With that said I am ready to never eat chocolate again because I know it will not cure my stress only Jesus can truly help me and really wants to. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me or read this. It’s a funny example of how people think stress works and how they cope with it but the truth is the world is crying out for chocolate when they really need Jesus. If you don’t know him please ask me or another person who does. If you do know him always remember he is the way and answer to all things, even stress.

God Bless You...

12/20/06

As I listen to people speak and interact with one another and listen to people’s concerns working at a call center with Safeco Insurance I am deeply hurt by the phrase, “God bless you.” I just got off the phone with a man who was extremely rude to me. Basically when he called in he asked to speak to his adjuster. I have no idea who that is so I asked for his claim number, he then began his montage of insults of “you people ask to many question”, “that is your problem”, “look just transfer me over”. After I ripped the claim number out of him and transferred the call to his adjuster he ends by saying “God bless you”

Thank you sir! Unfortunately God is judged (when I say judged I mean people base their thoughts and opinions on who God is based on what His people represent Him to be) and people get a first impression of Him by the people who represent Him like the lovely gentleman mentioned above. So if I were not man of faith myself I would think, if that is what your God is like, rude, abrasive, impatient, and generally angry, I don’t want any parts of Him. I guarantee this gentlemen like many others will go to church this Sunday and worship God, which is an awesome thing, and wonder why there are so many people opposed to God. The problem is that normally a person will not reflect on their daily interactions with people and think as long as they worship God on Sunday and sing all the right songs that it doesn’t matter what they do through out the week to others. I know that we all have bad days and that we all fall. I know that it is possible to just have a bad day. Where in God’s word, where in God’s character do people get the impression they can be rude and please God at the same time. Isn’t that why you go to Church? The point of the church is to learn more about God and His ways, in doing this you are worshipping God. So why would you not aim to please God everyday in all you do. That is the problem, God has been skewed into this God that only wants you to behave on Sunday, that you are free to cut up and act the fool whenever you like as long as you step in line on Sunday to check off doing something for Him like you are supposed to do. The problem is that many people think God is about us, when it is the other way around, we should be all about God. I mean, God is all about us, He loved us so much He sent Jesus to die on earth as a lowly man, a criminals death.. But God also has standards that we are held accountable for. Jesus said that the 1st and most important commandment is to love God and the second is to love others and all the rest hinge on these two. So, by being rude we are breaking the first two and most important commandments right?

On behalf of all who end there rude rampages with, “God bless you” I apologize for their misrepresentation of what God is really like and thought you should know we miss the mark a lot, but God is all loving and calls us to be patient and loving as well.

To all those who say God bless you, please make sure you represent Him well before you seal your statements with a representation of Him. Many are out there who don’t like God because He is so misrepresented by His followers. Christians, please think about all the small things you do through out the day, people judge God for what we do.

I mess up all the time, I just have the advantage of after thought right now.

Change

This was written on July 24, 2006.

What would happen if for one day the world changed? I mean what if people were loving, forgiving, pure, good…? So I’m reading tonight and am introduced to a familiar idea I try to live by. I want the world to change. I want people to stop being so bad. We all know right from wrong. It is a sad thought that we had to be taught what was right… Can human’s function as a harmony of people on the same page? Sometimes, yes, and in those moments we all notice something is different, something feels right, something great is happening like love, patience, understanding, compassion, forgiveness… In these moments that make all of us smile and say, “awe, that was nice.” I think we briefly find our true identities. We finally for a brief moment live in harmony with the way we were originally created to be. That is the way things should be right?

The change must start within ourselves! We are sinful by nature, we have this nasty tendency to sway towards wrong rather than right and be bull-headed and in a hurry and just generally self seeking. This is due to sin. In the moments we find ourselves being “good” I know we are briefly harmonizing with God and the way He intended for things to be. Jesus was sent as an example of what God is like and then showed to be the greatest example of love ever. So everyone, Christians, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Atheist can all agree on those “moments” where things just seem right. Those moments are times when we are following the example of what life is and that life is what Christ offers us.
That is how God is… The bittersweet reality of it all is that because of sin we are not like what God wanted us to be. We are not even connected to Him anymore. Now here is the sweet part though, Christ died as a criminal just so we could know God, so we could be connected to Him again.

So next time you think about “life” think about what life to the fullest is… It isn’t in the club, in that weak girl, in the ego driven man, in that buffet of intoxicating substances, in your wallet, or anywhere else… It’s in those moments… And in those moments I promise you will find Christ. Just something to chew on… Think about it… Read a couple bible passages about Jesus. No matter what you think or have to say about Him or Christianity you cannot deny He lived life to the fullest. Now the next step is excepting the world is broken and isn’t consistent with those moments. Christ can make these moments more of a reality… That is life, that is what it means, and it is all possible through Jesus Christ.

Thoughts…

Corners

Cleaning out this old folder still....this one was written on June 25, 2006.

Last night, Saturday night, Matt, Tara, and I don’t have anything to do, so we decide to walk down to Monument Circle. Here is the cool set up of Monument Circle. It is the center of Indianapolis. Meridian Street, which runs through the center of the entire city, runs directly through the circle. Downtown Indianapolis has a vibrant culture and an alive downtown. The city is an actually big city, clean though. So anyways, what all that means is that the circle is the center of the city, like the hub, where a great diversity of people comes to hang out. Everything from the bikers who park their bikes (motorcycles) on the circle and just sit on them all night, as to draw attention to themselves, you have your car people, which can be broken down into a couple different groups within itself (the old school hot rods, new import tuners, urban 70’s cars with over 20 inch rims on it, you also have your dating couples, young kids trying to start trouble, and homeless community). Now all these groups of people are in this one location. People who know Christ and ones who don’t. So, we are walking around town and we go to the Chocolate factory to get some ice cream. This guy in front of me jokingly says he is going to pay with “this”, which I was shown that “this” was actually a million dollar bill with Ronald Regan on the front. So I laugh and ask to see it. On the back is a tract, something telling people how you can get to heaven through a relationship with Jesus Christ. So, he says, yeah we are all good enough to get there… That sent a great pain through my heart as I watched this young man with a huge cross tattoo on his forearm presume he was good enough to go to heaven. He didn’t know anything about Christ and the grace He provides. So, I try to talk to him a little bit, but he is all out of it and has his mind on all sorts of other things. He was almost like thinking about sixteen different things at once, so it was impossible to keep his attention. So he left and I was left standing there in line with my huge bowl of cookies and cream ice cream with hot fudge and all the other fixings that make you smile noticing all these people walking around with these large bills they were not reading, but only joking about. At this point my interest was peaked. I really wanted to see who in the world was handing these things out, like who were they with, what church, why Indianapolis on a Saturday night, things like that. I swing open the doors and escape the enslaving aroma of chocolate to see and hear what made me happy, encouraged, confused, sad, and speechless all in the same breath. So here is what I see and hear:

On the corner there is a large gentleman yelling at the top of his lungs why Jesus is correct and why this young man, obviously lost, is not. They have this grudge match going on about why the terrorist and other Muslims would be willing to die for a lie, the street evangelist was telling this young man the Muslims were believing lies apparently. There is this huge crowd building and all these people of different cultures and beliefs get to witness what they may be seeing for the first time as Christianity. The conversation ended with the young man walking away throwing his hands in the air in disgust yelling, “Whatever man!”

So here is a little explanation of my feelings…
I was encouraged because there were people on the streets of downtown Indianapolis at 11 o’clock at night preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. I was happy because I didn’t feel like I was alone in this urban setting. I felt the presence of other Christians who wanted to tell others about Jesus. I was confused because I was sad at the same moment I was happy and encouraged. My sadness was brought because I see this lost young guy arguing against Christ being the only way, the truth the life being hammered on and told he is wrong. Don’t get me wrong, he was lost and had no idea of what Jesus could do in his life and that Jesus is our savior, but the approach was almost like an attack. I was confused also because I saw evangelism going on, which I’ve been praying I’d get bolder about lately anyways, but I could only think this is not what Jesus had in mind when he told us to go tell the world of the good news. So I got to talk to a guy named Chris who was part of the group and he seemed pretty chill and laid back. Apparently this is a group of churches that gets together and blast cities with the good news of Christ.

So enamored I walk up to the steps of the monument and have a seat. So I overhear this guy on a microphone giving away money for answering trivia questions and little odd ball tests. He then says, “Who wants to take the good person test?” I knew immediately where he was going. He basically brought this crowd to recognition of them not being good to God’s standard. So ends by saying Christ offers grace and that’s how we get to heaven. Yes, he ends there. Please don’t take me being critical, because I think it is amazing for a group of people to get together and go into a hostile downtown atmosphere to preach the gospel of Christ on a Saturday night. I’ve done it in New York City. It can be affective, I’ve lead a couple people to Christ this way.

At this point I’m just kind of blown away by all the things going on in this small area of the world. I’m just looking around watching couples snuggle up together, young people dancing and waling toward all the clubs, older people just strolling the city on a beautiful night, homeless people looking for a need to be met, and all kind of different people just doing there thing on a Saturday night downtown Indy. I just got really quiet and thought, “I wonder what Jesus would be doing right now if he were here?” I mean can you imagine in our modern day society, Jesus, the son of God, our savior, just chilling out in downtown Indy? I think it is a cool thought. So, this is something to think about. I mean what is evangelism? What does it really look like? What example our we using to go out and do these sorts of things? The only examples I can think of are Jesus and Paul. I would assume that this is where all evangelist get there inspiration. I mean if someone is following Joe for inspiration and Joe looks to Christ as an example I would count that as one in the same. As long as the source of inspiration begins with Christ and his ministry. That is what Paul did. I think we read the gospels as these great stories of miracles and great teachings Christ did. That is a huge part of them, but I know a part I have missed out on for so long is the example Christ is setting for us when he does these miracles. The point of the miracles is not to just be a cool dude who wants everyone’s problems to be solved immediately. The point is to provoke belief in Him as the Messiah. So within these miracles we see Jesus approach the unapproachable. He talks to whores at wells, handicapped people at pools, blind men, and lepers. He reaches into the shadows society has pushed these people into and just begins to lead a conversation into the goal of them believing upon Him, thus bringing glory to Himself, and securing their eternity with Him. Take the woman at the well as a perfect example. Jesus did not rush up to the scene and tell her she was a sinner and tell her she is wrong in the way she thinks, lives, and breathes. No, no, Jesus is far too great for that. Jesus let her poke and test Him. She actually insults Him. She pretty much says, “Well, are you even grater than our father Jacob?” As to put him in his place. Jesus brings her to a point where he simply asks her to go get her husband. This is asked of her after he says he can offer her water where she will never thirst again. Of course, she says she doesn’t have a husband. Jesus knows. Jesus brings her into recognition of her sin and tells her that he is the messiah who is to come to judge and know all things. So here is what I see Christ doing in this and every situation of evangelism as we would call it today:

Start a casual conversation
Offer eternal fulfillment through himself
Acknowledgment of sin
Repentance
Offering forgiveness and no condemnation

So Jesus does this with the Samaritan woman at the well and in turn she is so pumped about it she goes and tells a lot of people in her town, possibly the entire community, about who she’d met and what he’d said. They come back and see for themselves and all believe on Him. He is good, real good. Well, He is God so that helps huh? I am being challenged everyday on how to evangelize as Christ would and how to bring people into a relationship with Him and where to do it.

Another thought is that Jesus knew how to control a conversation. Briefly, the Jews and Samaritans were culturally opposed to each other. The Samaritans believed that Samaria was the place to worship and the Jews believed Jerusalem was the only place. Jews normally avoided Samaria, but Jesus intentionally went through, John 4:4 actually says, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” This indicates it was intentional. So he went there with reason, the woman and her town. When she asked what place was right to worship in, Jesus immediately returned the conversation to a more important topic, her salvation. So, following Christ’s example, we need to be aware of random comment that would distract us from conversations of value, like their salvation and journey with God.

So what is evangelism? Most dictionaries reflect something like this: Zealous preaching and advocacy of the gospel. Whatever that means… I say it is more like this: Presenting the good news of Jesus Christ through in a loving, relevant, humble way. In the presentation comes directing the conversation towards Christ. So, I’m positive that God blesses the effort of those street corner preachers in the downtown settings, but I still wonder is that what God had in mind when he told us to go? People need and yearn for relationships and satisfaction in life. The only fulfillment they will veer find is through Christ Jesus. The relationship part that will open the door to a conversation abut Christ as something other than an argument is up to us. Pray for opportunities, get in the word, study Jesus’ ministry, study Paul’s ministry, and most importantly be willing to not just push a moment of time towards a decision, but more importantly e willing to leave that person with a piece of your life, a sincere conversation out of love about Jesus Christ. That is what I think of when I hear the word evangelism. That is what stews in my mind when I sit in Monument Circle on a Saturday night. I pray God can use you to spread his glory and ring more and more people to Him. May you be blessed to desire to be used as an effective member of the Body of Christ.

Identity

This one was written Dec 20, 2006.

We’ve become consumers to a black market selling lies, we live in a world that tells us we must be something, and we must reach certain goals and buy certain products to be in the loop of society. The world we live in tells us we must have this or have that to be accepted.

We search for acceptance in all we do, everything we do is to become something more or better. We are set up this way because when we were created we were complete, lacking nothing. Ever since the original sin we were separated from God, making us incomplete. We search to fulfill this completeness in so many different ways and if you think about it, everything we do has one reason behind it, to gain in some way, to becoming more, greater, bigger, better. So we are just incomplete because we aren’t with God anymore. Now here is the amazing part. God who was betrayed by us, humans, his creation, sent himself, His son to earth. Now that sounds simple and many people have John 3:16 memorized because of this. For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only son so that any man that believes in Him will not die but have life everlasting. So here is what is amazing and not simple. Jesus was with God, at His right hand. He was surrounded by perfection. God left that, Jesus left that to come into this grimy world to come after us to complete us again. I think about a soldier who has just been cleaned up and is going back home, but turns around and runs into this mess of a war field to just tell a little homeless girl on the corner that He loves her. That’s nuts, that’s love. So forget all these Christian marketing schemes, the corporation of the American Church, and any other prejudice you may have for Christianity and think about its roots: Jesus, Love, and the pursuit of completeness. So think about it, why do you do most things in life? It is all searching for some kind of gain or completeness. You will never find completeness apart from God. The only way God offers that is through Jesus because he is so loving and justice all in one (I’ll write about that later). So drop your guard and think about how awesome it is that God, who created everything, left heaven to search for you on earth. He left heaven to offer you a way back to him, a way to completeness. That is a beautiful thing and when you find God life becomes much clearer and much more beautiful. It makes since because you don’t search for completeness because you have it. You stand complete on an absolute factor, God, in a crazy chaotic world that always changes.

Why does it matter if we are accepted? If we are complete we will not yearn for acceptance. If our relationship with God is there then we will not search for that completeness that we were lacking before. It’s like a married man or woman. No longer do they have to go on awkward dates or wear make up every time they see the other sex, they have become complete in their marriage so they don’t look for acceptance from the opposite sex by doing or wearing what they like. With God we don’t have to put on this face or smell a certain way or talk a certain way, we just have to accept His offer to renew a relationship with Him. He loves us and that will never change no matter what good or bad things we do. He wants a relationship with you and no matter if you ever give Him the time of day or not He will still love you. His love will never change! You are born incomplete and spend your entire life looking for that something to complete you, but the truth is that nothing will ever truly complete or satisfy you until you get back into the relationship with God that we were made to have.

Step One

I was going through an old folder on my computer today and came across some neat little writings. This was written Jan 12, 2007. Fun to just revisit old thoughts I suppose.

It’s a beautiful thing when a baby first learns to walk isn’t it? All those months of crawling and being a hip accessory have now come to an end and this child begins its journey of getting into all sorts of new adventures. Phones ring off the hook as the parents call everyone they know to announce this great accomplishment by their baby. It’s a joyous moment, it really is something else! This calls for a celebration indeed. Pictures are taken, home videos are made, and all kind of sweets are given to the child because they have made such a great accomplishment. Walking though is not that big of a deal is it? When is the last time your mom bought you something or took a picture of you just because you walked? It’d be a little odd to through a huge party and invite all your friends to celebrate walking wouldn’t it? This is because walking is not what is really being celebrated here; it goes a little beyond what we can see. It’s a trust thing. There sits this child with a head that almost outweighs them being summoned by their parents, the one’s that love them so much. So the child, who is used to being grounded by all four limbs, decides that they trust their parent and believes that they only want the best for them and doesn’t want them to get hurt, and takes off, one foot in front of the other. Like I said, walking is not a big deal, people do it all the time, what’s great is that this child has acted in faith and trusted their parent. From that moment on walking becomes mundane and unexciting, but for one instant, one glorious moment, time stands still and this action of trust remains a monumental occasion in this child’s history.

Why is it that trust is such a big issue with us? I mean, why must people earn our trust? Well, I think the answer is pretty simple because we are simple. We do not believe in just giving out something without seeing results or some kind of gain in it for us. We must see to trust or have faith. It’s hard to trust a stranger because we have not seen his character yet. It’s hard to trust a piece of equipment that you have never seen work before. Faith is hope in the unseen. This works totally opposite of the human thought process. Although nothing makes sense I am supposed to trust in something I cannot see. Seeing is believing and I’m from the show me state are both common sayings that reinforce the idea that we are a society that desires tangible absolutes and guarantees. Truth is something you can see it just is. The same is true with God, with Jesus. It’s just like the wind; we can only see the effects.

This is why Jesus said that the path was narrow, the path meaning following him and being a disciple. It is easy to believe in Jesus. James is very clear when he says even the demons believe that there is one God. So God requires more than belief, he requires faith. There must be a clear distinction made between these two terms because too many people think these terms are synonyms and interchangeable. I think of it almost like learning. Knowledge is okay to have, but application is what leads wisdom. I’ll admit I am addicted to this one reality show, Beauty and the Geek. This show fascinates me because of the lines that it crosses within our society, it takes bottom of the barrel, socially inactive people (Geeks) and mixes them with social wizards (Beauties) all to strengthen their areas of weakness and overcome common prejudices. My point in bringing this show up is that these men, the Geeks, are geniuses, but cannot interact with the general public at all. There was one guy who was a Physiologist, he was amazing and understood people and their actions well. This guy who had all this knowledge was a Geek. He could barley speak in front of people, his hands sweated in the presence of beautiful women, and his voice trembled when speaking to anyone out of him being uncomfortable. That makes no sense to me at all, this guy went to school for 6 years and obtained a masters degree so he could understand society, but he can’t even interact with what he knows so well. Doesn’t that seem like a waste? All that knowledge and he can’t apply it. I think that the difference between belief and faith can be found in that mess of a metaphor. Belief alone doesn’t even separate you from the demons, but faith, true faith, in Jesus changes your entire world. Like the wind, faith can be seen by its effect.

I have a friend that I am investing a lot of time in lately and he faces this issue. I asked if he believed in God and his response was, “Well, yeah, you’d have to be stupid to not think there is a God.” The problem doesn’t lie in his belief it is in his faith. He has no faith that God is anything that He claims to be in His word. He does not think that Jesus did all the things recorded in scripture and does not have faith that Jesus is his redeemer. My friend’s problem is his faith in what he says he believes. It almost makes me cringe when he claims he is a Christian because the Lord was clear the several times he said things like having faith in Him will lead to eternal life. I am saddened by my friend’s dilemma because belief alone will not secure a man’s salvation. The entire point in sending Jesus Christ to earth as a perfect sacrifice was to die for our sins so that out relationship with God could be reconnected. A relationship takes more than belief. The demons have no relationship with God but they believe in Him. See the difference? It’s a trust thing.

When that child took those first steps, it did not under stand physics, balance, or the dangers in falling down. The child simply trusted their parent with no understanding and took those historical first steps. God doesn’t require your understanding to come into a relationship with Him; He only wants your trust, your faith. We cannot get to God without faith in Jesus Christ as His only son, the Christ, Messiah, Savior, faith in Him is what is required, not understanding in all the little things. That will come with time. I am not belittling the relationship between God and man, but I am going to pull a principal out of casual dating between two individuals here. When you first meet that someone you are interested in them and that’s it. You don’t know what their family is like, or what kind of baggage hey carry or even what will happen in the relationship with them, you just go into wanting to know them. With God he just wants you to get to know Him, in spending time with Him you will learn more and more about Him. The more you learn about God in this relationship, the more you will become passionately involved with Him and love Him for you begin to understand what He has and is doing for you.