Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Matthew 10:32-33

Those are a couple of verses where I wish I could just look at those verses and say "this is what that means" without concern for context. I think in fact that a lot of people do just that with these two verses. We look at these and think "ok, cool, I can handle that, I'm all good here." Haven't read those verses lately? Here they are in a nut shell (not that I should need to summarize two verses), if you disown Christ, he will disown you. See, we can handle that. I mean, seriously, how many people that "know" Christ will ever disown him before other people? And even if we do, we can always look at Peter's denial of Christ and conclude Jesus must not have been too serious with that one. Or just, as we should (I do mean this) point to 1 John 1:9 when we realize our denial and repent of it.

Now of course when I dig in a bit deeper on this and actually get some context these two verses are MUCH more difficult for me. At the least you have to read down through verse 39 to get the immediate context. When you do that you see the real sentiment of Christ's words. Again, summarized: it's all Christ, or it's all self. Maybe that is a bit too concise, but it really is the heart of what he says there. You either choose Christ and his desires, or you choose yourself and your own desires. If you choose your own desires, then according to Christ's own words, that choice is equated to disowning Him. Likewise, if you avoid "picking up your own cross" then you disown Christ. Read Matthew 10:32-39. See what I mean?

Now take let's actually look at Peter's denial and see how that fits. Peter had mostly given up his entire life to follow Christ for three years. Peter left his job, left his family, went on the road without concern for food, clothes, or shelter to be with Christ. Now, granted he did worry from time to time about those things. But still, he DID acknowledge Christ and followed Him. Then at Christ's arrest, he turned on Him. Peter three times completely denied Jesus, even knowing Him. His fear of losing his own security, his own life suddenly overtook him and Peter disowned Christ. So, according to the Matthew text, Peter's gets disowned by Christ now, right? Well, maybe if the story ended there at Peter's denial, then yes. But it doesn't of course. Nope, Peter repents of that after Christ's victory over death and now fully gives up his own life to choose Christ's life for his own. Peter now devotes himself completely to following Christ and Christ alone. He now gets along his way with no concern at all, no worry at all for things not of Christ. Clearly, then the Matthew text isn't just about an outward, verbal statement. While it may include that verbal side, it is much deeper and about the inward, heart-changed life. This will show in every aspect of what we do and say in the "fruit of the spirit" being produced in our lives.

So, while I think I usually take a half-baked view of what it means to disown Christ and think there is no way I would EVER do like Peter and deny Christ, in actuality I probably deny Christ, as the Matthew text defines it, every single day many times a day. In truth then, I have disowned Christ. If you wonder why I seem so urgent and concerned for my salvation in many of these posts, this should start to help you understand that a bit more. Take a hard look at whether people looking in on you would say you choose Christ over your own desires. See if people would think you choose sports, TV, brothers/sisters, wives/husbands, kids, work, whatever over Christ. Better yet, imagine yourself before Him and HONESTLY answer to the One who knows for certain your motives whether you choose Him or your own life. I know my answer at this point would have to be I have been choosing my own life. It is time for repentance for me. And that is when I turn and hope in 1 John 1:9. He is faithful and Just. He will forgive me. WHEN I confess and repent. I still have work to do and choices to make. My actions, fruit will show when that happens.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Convicting Sermon

I went to MANY church retreats, mission trips and camps during my high school years. I also sat through a sermon message nearly every Sunday during those years. I remember a lot of those Sunday messages still today, and some of them are still convicting for me. Likewise, I can vividly remember most of the trips and conferences I attended and the convicted feelings I had as I returned home from each. But, I also remember the inevitable letdown that came after only a week or two back home.

I still sit most Sundays in my church building to listen to a weekly sermon. I occasionally am convicted by that message, but in truth I am convicted these days more by my own reading (both the Bible and other stuff) and prayer than anything I hear on Sunday mornings. That of course is in no way a critique of the church I attend or the pastors or their messages. It is just where I am right now. I don't think there is any "sermon" that would bring deeper conviction than the Spirit, the Bible and my own heart have brought of late. The rub here is though, that whether convicted by a sermon, an event, mission work, or whatever else I STILL haven't really done anything about it.

So then, what really is the point of our Sunday morning messages? Are they really meant to convict us of something? Are they meant to "refresh" us for another week in the world? Are they used to teach us the Bible? Maybe it's a little of all of that. Still, I ask then, really – what's the point of all of that? If all that message does is convict me of something, refresh me to deal with the world another week, or teach me a lesson from the Bible then I am pretty sure that 40 minutes or so of my life could be MUCH better spent elsewhere. No, I am NOT saying I think we should stop going to church or stop having sermons. I AM saying that I think for the most part the focus of our "worship services" might need some evaluation. And again, this is not a singular thing with my local church. It seems to be a common theme across western culture according to many of the books I am reading.

What I am getting at is this. The convicting sermon is truly important, yes. But simply being convicted is somewhat worthless if action does not follow. A real convicting sermon is one that not only pricks the heart, but it is one that actually brings hearers into obedient action in Christ's footsteps. A refreshing sermon is not one that simply allows me to "feel good" as I go back to my same old daily grind in the world. No, a refreshing sermon should open my eyes to actions I can take during my week to show Christ's actively. As for teaching Biblical truth, I really think the sermon should be more about reaffirming the truths we each read and discuss on our own. If I am only being taught Bible for 40 minutes each week (and usually less since we don't go every week anyway), then I am NOT in God's word.

For today's churches that claim to want to be Acts 2 churches, how can we really look at our average Sunday meetings and say we ARE being Acts 2 churches? Seriously, READ THAT TEXT AGAIN!!! That first "sermon" wasn't much if you look at it against our polished, prepared messages today. It certainly taught. It certainly convicted ("…cut to their hearts") the audience. It also refreshed them for living against the world. Moreover though, look at what followed that message. Not to mention the thousands who claimed Christ as Lord, but they ACTED (Acts) on it. The church sold everything, committed to prayer, and began to GO and make disciples. That is a truly convicting sermon. Conviction leading to Action.

For me right now I excuse my inaction saying that I am making plans to implement significant change in my life. And believe me, it IS an excuse. There is no doubt in my mind (or heart for that matter) that I have led my family to a lifestyle of excess. I AM convicted. I live in a convicted state these days, and it's hard. I only wish I had the trust and faith to simply act, but I don't right now. I am too afraid of what that total surrender to God looks like for me and my family. I hope and pray God helps me to overcome that fear soon and brings me to action. I am getting quite tired of being a slave to this fear. I KNOW obedient action is freedom, but I FEEL comfort in the "security" I have found in the world. Man, it sure does hurt to say that.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Can I Move a Mountain?

In Matthew 17:20-21, Jesus has one of those moments that I wish I could be there to see his expression as he makes fun of his disciples a little bit. I can picture him sipping a cup of water, eating a little snack just after casting out a demon from a boy. His disciples come over a little put off that he so easily gave the K.O. to the demon that they were not able to even land a punch on. They ask the question he was all too ready to answer for them, (paraphrased a bit from verse 19) "um, so, Jesus…um, why do you think…you know, your disciples, couldn't cast out that little demon?" I see Jesus still holding that cup and bread, not even looking up simple say with a smirk or a laugh, "you got no faith boys!"

I feel pretty good that scene could be made into quite the comedy sketch in a sit-com today. But the really funny part could be the next verse where Jesus tells them with just faith as small as a mustard seed they could move a mountain and NOTHING WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE. Can't you just see those disciples grabbing up a couple of mustard seeds and standing in front of the Mount of Olives?

I do wonder though, how many times do I stand in front of my mountain of problems and yell at them to get out of my way with no result. I also look at those mountains and think to myself, I know I have at least a little faith. Why am I still fighting to get this mountain moved? Sadly, I believe the answer is I really don't have mustard seed faith. Don't get me wrong, I believe with all I am that Jesus is the crucified, raised, son of God. My problem is this: I am not as certain that I believe God will move mountains for me. It pains me to say that because I do believe there is nothing greater than God. So clearly he COULD move mountains for me. So, I guess what my lack of faith in this says is that I must believe God doesn't care too much for my daily struggles.

Hmm. So many places to go from there. Let's go here. If I take all of scripture into view, that statement that God isn't too concerned with my daily struggles really isn't a big deal. After all, Paul, the great apostle who received a direct revelation from the ascended Christ, asked over and over for a mountain to be removed from his way, but God refused him. The whole of God's word seems to indicate that it is that bigger picture, the biggest mountains of salvation that can be moved. Look at Matthew 19:23-24 again. That is a mountain moving situation, a salvation issue. That is what Jesus was all about, seeking and saving the lost. All else was of no concern to him. Therefore, I have to imagine when he says just a little faith makes moving mountains possible, he is referring to our salvation.

I kind of hate saying that, because I know a lot of people aren't going to agree with it. A lot of people will flat out get on me about this too. I am really becoming more aware, however, of how different my "learned" view of God and Jesus seem to be from what I see in God's word. I have always looked at what God was doing for me or to me. That is NOT the Biblical view. The Biblical, Christ-like model is more in tune with J.F.K's famous words, "it's not what your God can do for you, but what you can do for your God." Of course, I modified that a bit. Christ's most passionate prayers while sweating blood say it best, "yet not as I will, but as you will." It is NOT about me, it is ALL about God's glory.

So, YES! I can move mountains. Just not always the mountains I want to move or think need to be moved. That is, unless my vision is God's vision. Then the only mountains I will care to move will be the ones that show his glory to the world. Those truly impossible mountains, the ones that cannot be moved any other way. The mountains that stand in the way of the lost coming to him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Do I Have to Reap?

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the phrase "you reap what you sow" in my life. Even as a kid I think I got the main idea behind that phrase. But, in recent contemplation on the use of that phrase in Galatians 6, in several gospels (or the same general idea), and a few old testament stories I am now wondering if maybe I only take a half-hearted view of reaping/sowing.

The traditional view of "reap/sow" goes like this: if you make a bad (ungodly) decision then you have to deal with the negative consequences of that decision. If, on the other hand you make a good (godly) decision, you get to enjoy the good results of that decision. I indeed think that is the crux of the Biblical use of the phrase for sure. However, looking at it from the wrong perspective, as I now see I have mostly done, sets us up for MASSIVE disappointment and depression.

If I look at my decisions and expected consequences of those decisions from the normal, earthly (makes sense since I live here after all) perspective, then I REALLY want this verse and all like it thrown out of the Bible. Seriously, I want NO part of this idea if you tell me it applies to my earthly life. Why? Let's see, free will of EVERYBODY on earth means this reap/sow idea doesn't play well with my making Godly choices. Example: Joseph (guy with the colorful coat) does the Godly thing and runs from the seduction of Potiphar's wife. The result? He gets thrown in prison. Does that sound like he reaped according to what he sowed? Not to me. It sounds like to me that Joseph suffered and unjust harvest at the discretion of Potiphar. And this is just the kind of reaping/sowing that gets so many people to wonder "how can God let bad things happen to good people."

Granted, in time, God worked for Joseph to bring him out of jail and into a powerful position in Egypt. After three years (YEARS) in jail, Joseph finally got a just ruling from God. But that is just the kind of perspective issue I am talking about here. TIME. I want this reap/sow thing to work in MY time, not God's time, which is to say time versus eternity. If we look at reaping according to what we sow with a temporal perspective, we will forever be disappointed. God does not put a time constraint on our harvest. He doesn't even say our harvest will actually come during our life on earth. Nope, He just promises we WILL get a harvest based on what we planted.

As is the case with many Biblical principles, our perspective on the issue is as important as the text itself. We must always approach Godly things with a Godly perspective. Otherwise, we are setup for a confused and painful life. With a Godly, rather than a human perspective we can find contentment, joy and hope that is promised in the Bible.

Oh, and the whole "I want this verse thrown out" comment earlier. IF the idea of reap what you sow IS supposed to be a promise based on our human/earthly view, then to me it is just entirely not working at best. It's flat out false, a lie at worst. So, if that is the case, then it's better that it just isn't in there. BUT, it is there. And, again, fortunately it does NOT have any hint of human time or earthly perspective associated with it. Don't buy it? Go back and read ALL of the passages in the gospels where Jesus uses this concept and see what he is talking about. Or, look at Stephen and the "reaping" of the apostles. What did they reap? It certainly wasn't "good" according to man's view, but they reaped amazing harvests in God's view.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Simple Belief

I was thinking about what I believe with regards to God's power and activity in this age. I am not about to dive into eschatology here, but this is just some real thought about how God can and should impact my life NOW, TODAY!
I believe God is capable of more than I can even imagine
In my personal life
In the lives of those I know
In the lives of everyone in my community
In the lives of everyone in the world
And I believe it can start with me
If I am transformed daily to be more like Christ
If I commit to serving others
If I am willing to sacrifice as Christ sacrificed

Now I just need to live as if I truly believe that.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fill ‘er Up

It's kind of funny. I remember hearing my parents talk about how cheap gas was when they were teenagers and young adults. I always thought if only prices were like that my tank would always be full to go wherever I want. And there was some truth in that. When gas prices went down to about $.80 while I was in my senior year in high school I probably put way too many miles on my little Celica. That tank was seemingly an endless supply of go-juice. And when the gauge did get low, I didn't even have to think about it; I just filled her back up again. Of course it also helped that my parents let me have one of their QT cards!

Today though, gas prices are a little painful. I actually cringe when my tank gets below ¼. I start looking at where I am, where I am going and think about which gas stations will likely have the cheapest price. I will even let that tank go almost dry if I know a station two exists up is a few cents a gallon cheaper. Still, the tank does get refilled no matter what the price per gallon is. When I need the refill I get a refill.

Well, my Spirit tank works much the way my car's tank works. It runs dry from time to time if I don't keep an eye on it. I didn't realize this until recently. I have always believed that once I made Christ Lord of my life, that the Holy Spirit came within me and filled me for all time. The Spirit was there whenever I needed it, my tank was ALWAYS full. I now am seeing that I must pull in for a fill up, but unlike when I was first driving I have to actually passionately want to be filled. I have to ask for that fill up of the Spirit. If I ignore the Spirit, my tank will run dry.

I have been in this empty state for the past few weeks I think. That probably explains why this is the first post in that time. I again have been on the travel gig, and I have again let myself get too busy, too important to think about where the Spirit gauge is. It is way low; the light is on for sure. So, my prayers over the last few days have been much like some of the prayers of the New Testament prayers. I am begging God to again fill me with His Spirit and to remove the things that drain my tank. Of course, I think He is doing things His way (surprise) and not really doing this the way I thought. I mean, really, wouldn't be easier just to have my company say "Mark, we have a bunch of new hires. You don't need to travel anymore." No, I hear God saying instead, "Mark, I am going to slowly show you the things that are draining my Spirit. Now you, Mark, must decide to actually make the changes to stop letting those things keep you from Me."

I am sure there is a great reason He does this, but I still don't (and never will) understand why God continues to put those types of responsibilities on me. I have failed at this far too often for Him to think I would ever be successful. Yet, He still believes in me. He still wants desperately for me to finally recognize the joy that only comes from full devotion and reliance on Him. And He will NOT force Himself on me. Otherwise, I would not experience that full joy. It must be my choice; I must constantly want His Spirit filled up in me.

Fill me up God! Fill me to overflowing so that I may be overjoyed in all things. Let me overflow so much with your Spirit that everyone around me cannot help but see your Glory and want to experience the same joy you have given to me.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I’m a Smart Guy - Sometimes

In many ways humility evades me a little too frequently. I probably need to apologize to a ton of people, and of course God for that. So, let me start with this: I know I am actually a pretty stupid guy. And I am also fairly certain those last two words, "stupid guy" are over redundant.

Now, with that said, I am actually a pretty smart person (or at least I think so). I search for logic in everything. I read almost constantly to widen my knowledge in way too many areas. I also find myself thinking about where and how I can improve things in this world. And that brings me to the stupid me in need of MUCH humility. Whenever I start to think I know how to solve a problem, make something better for people, expand God's kingdom, I then need to remember that HONESTLY, I am stupid in these things.

See, my plans and my ways are not God's ways. This simple fact is one of the most difficult things for me. I really like to run with ideas and get things moving. This type of quick, almost reactive thinking does not seem to go well with God's desires for me. As I was reading through the gospel of Mark I saw a perfect example of this, and it was more than humbling on this point. In Mark 8:31-33 I am sure Jesus himself is talking straight to me as well as Peter.

In this Mark 8 text, Peter had just finished telling Jesus, "You are the Christ." Then, almost in the next breath Peter goes off on Jesus. See, Peter didn't see the logic or benefit in Jesus telling people his death was imminent. Peter had a better plan than Jesus, and Peter was more than happy to yell at Jesus about it. Something I would never do of course (with complete sarcasm). I kind of like this being in the Bible though; it certainly allows me to better relate with the struggles those who walked physically with Jesus had. But, the statement from Jesus makes me wish I couldn't relate to this at all. Recognizing what I assume is Peter's pride and ambition getting in the way of God's will, Jesus yells back at Peter, "Get behind me Satan!" Gut shot! Low blow! Jesus clears up for me any possible confusion stating specifically that Peter only has in mind "things of men," not things of God.

Like Peter, I have my own ideas about how best to expand God's kingdom on Earth. I have grand plans for how my local church can better reach out to my community. Sadly though, I tend to think on those things not in God's view, but in my own logic. My logic is limited; God is not limited to logic. My thoughts, as huge as I may think they them are tiny compared to God's plans. When I see the ferocious rebuke of Peter by Jesus I can see just how damaging this type of prideful thinking can be for me and for God's plans. That small, 3 verse portion of Marks gospel is enough to turn a smart guy stupid for sure.

This is not an easy thing for me to get past though. I don't think it was easy for Peter either. He still kept this up even to the point of cutting off someone's ear. I think, like Peter, my difficulty may be due to not praying as I should. I think it might also be that I do not acknowledge the presence of the Spirit within me. Peter didn't seem to get a handle on this until Pentecost. We simply don't see this side of Peter again after he receives the power of the Holy Spirit. That then is my project for myself. Start praying for God to keep me stupid (not hard I am sure), to slow me down when my mind starts flying, and to let the Spirit take control of me. I wonder what kind of person I will be if I allow God to do that for me. I hope it is someone no longer limited by logical conclusions with limited results, but a person who simply works with God to bring about a transformed world.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Prayer of a Franciscan Monk

While I know I have not prayed this prayer myself, I sure feel the sentiments of this prayer in my heart. I think perhaps the Spirit has been groaning this from with me on my behalf. Maybe this prayer represents best where I am most wrestling with God today. Maybe I should be praying this prayer alongside the Spirit within me.

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.



Monday, October 4, 2010


For many people, being telling the truth isn't too tough of an issue. We are mostly taught from an early age that it is not right to lie. Whether we grow up under view of the 10 Commandments ("thou shalt not bare false witness – lie) or just generally receive guidance that telling lies gets you into trouble, most of us know it is good to tell the truth. However, telling the truth is not the same as being honest. The idea of being honest goes much deeper and further and is core to what we believe and how we interact with God. It is also more about self than it is about your interaction with other people.

In many areas of my life I have no trouble with honesty. I can freely confess to struggles with prayer due to philosophical debates I have with myself over the purpose of prayer. I can openly discuss how much of a jerk I was to my wife while completing my college education. I can even admit, and this is tough, that I excused that horrible behavior because it was what God wanted – I was getting a Biblical Studies degree after all. Still, there are many areas in my life where honesty seems to take a back seat.

The areas that are tough are those areas where I have doubts. For me this usually takes the form of logical arguments with aspects of the Bible, my belief in miracles, and thus in God at all. Fortunately, I have been able to work through these, honestly, without too much trouble. Unfortunately, some deep dilemmas still exist that either I am not honest about or just ignore the honest answers. And I would argue that by ignoring the honest answer, I am actually being dishonest.

Example: I truly, honestly believe that I live in a culture and maintain a lifestyle that is out of touch with what God calls me to live. I say I am willing and ready to change that 100% and get back to full-time, located ministry as I believe God desires that from me. However, I justify my house, my cars, my career, my clothes, dining out, and tons of other things with the thought that God wants us to be happy. And when I carry this to the extreme of my dishonesty in this matter, I tend to blame it on my family – it isn't fair for me to force them to give up the lifestyle I helped lead them into. But the honest reality in this is that God does not EVER promise me happiness. And he certainly never says to gain happiness from a materialistic lifestyle.

The abandonment of honesty in this example, and plenty others in my world, are examples of a lack of intellectual honesty. From Wikipedia: Intellectual Honesty: Facts are presented in an unbiased manner, and not twisted to give misleading impressions or to support one view over another. For me, this is almost an unpardonable sin. I basically live for logic, truth, and yet in the most core things to me, I am unable to be completely honest with myself.

When I refuse to be intellectually honest I start to get a distorted view of things. I start to modify how I view, treat, and interact with God. I start to change how I allow God to work in me. In the case of lifestyle, returning to my above example, my dishonesty with myself (and God) leads me to turn away from where I know God wants me to be. It takes me away from God. It in essence is me putting myself before God AGAIN, just as Jonah did. I just hope I get this handled before God causes people to throw me from their boat again and a fish spits me out where He wants me.

I think honesty with self is perhaps one of the most important things in strengthening our faith, in deepening our relationship with God. Dishonesty is the fastest, moist direct way we lead ourselves away from God for sure. In whatever form it takes, whether justification, ignoring the honest answer, or flat out lies, dishonesty keeps us from seeing God or His plans for us clearly. I leave you with a quote from an old preacher (and I mean old), "God's guidance is plain. when we are true" - F.W. Robertson.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bringing Jesus’ Return

Several days ago I talked about how most people (when truly, deeply honest) don't believe Jesus is going to return today, tomorrow, or even in their own lifetime. That, as I said is a very sad state in which we find the church and me today. Something I didn't really talk about in that post though is why He hasn't come already. Why am I even here on the earth to even contemplate these questions?

Jesus even said in Mark 13 "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" referring to the end times. Of course, "generation" is a somewhat ambiguous term in Greek. It could mean that specific generation, their descendants, or an entire race. However, it would seem Jesus was trying to show the importance of "being on our guard" (verse 33) in the context of chapter 13 in Mark. So, I tend to lean toward the expectation it would be very soon. Also, other writers including Paul seem to expect Christ to return during their lifetime. And this belief carries into much of the writings of the church fathers. Trust me on this, or better yet, go read for yourself!

So again, if Jesus expected himself to return quickly, then why the hold up? And is this an untruth from Jesus himself? Well, let's look to the same chapter to see what Jesus himself says about this. In verse 10 He says, "the gospel must first be preached to all nations." He also says in verse 32 "no one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Take these two statements of Jesus together and I think what He is doing is putting the timing of His return on us. It is in our hands as to when He will return. Sound a little nuts? I thought so too. No way God leaves it up to us stupid humans who already spat in his face to determine when He completes His plan for creation. But, then again the whole idea that "the gospel must be preached to all nations" is still hanging around yelling out at us.

If you are anything like me, and I honestly hope you aren't for your sake, then it is likely you have never really heard much about that statement of Jesus. And if you have heard it or read it, you didn't really put too much thought around it. I don't think the apostles or disciples in His day did either. I think they just kind of let it sit there as we do today. I am fairly certain I never once heard a sermon in any of the MANY weeks in several different churches on Mark 13:10. Don't get me wrong, preachers taught on evangelism, missions, and the second coming of Christ. But it seems they stayed away from that verse.

The only reason I can think we avoid it is that it puts way too much responsibility on us. I am just fine with a lot of what it takes to be a Christian. I am somewhat OK with what it takes to be a Christ Follower (if you want a good video on the difference in those two things, go here: But, I am either ill-equipped, scared, or selfish (pretty sure that's the one) to take this statement personally. See, if I do take it personally, then I MUST go and preach the gospel. I am compelled to do so. If this one verse isn't enough, Jesus gives us the Great Commission in Matthew 28. Twice, at least, Christ himself tells us to preach to all nations. It isn't something for just a few us; it is for ME, You and anyone who claims Jesus as savior.

Like I said, I think for me it is all about selfishness that keeps me from going out and boldly preaching the gospel to all nations (and don't just think foreign missions, this is local nations too). I don't want to give up my status with my "friends" or decrease my lifestyle in order to freely be able to share the gospel with EVERYBODY, EVERYWHERE. After all, what would my co-workers think? What would my friends think? They would think I was nuts, which is basically what Jesus says also in Mark 13.

So, what comes from me being selfish like this? What comes from all of us not being fully committed to EACH share the gospel to ALL NATIONS no matter what the cost to us personally? The delay of Jesus' return to claim us into eternity with Him! Isn't that enough? 2 Peter 3:9 says God is "patient…wanting none to perish." For whatever reason, God has enlisted me and you to be his messengers to this dark world. He is patiently waiting on us. I want to be done with being slave to this world, this earthly existence and see Him face to face! If that is the way I feel, then I can help to speed His return. It just means letting go of this world and its concerns and taking the mission Jesus gave to us. We have stalled it for over 2000 years. Maybe NOW is the time for us all to hasten His return! Oh, and sorry for the book on this post. Got a little heated on this one. ;-)


Monday, September 27, 2010

In His Presence

As I look at where I am today and truly search the depths of my soul for truth I see some interesting things. I also see some crazy scary things. One of the things I see is that I have two polar opposite feelings inside me when I think about being in God's presence. I have at first a thought and feeling of incredible awe, happiness, excitement. But, at the same time I have to admit to the feelings of despair, complete fear, and disappointment. How can this be? Aren't I supposed to be thrilled to be with God, to be near God?
I think part of this is probably around my lacking prayer life. Maybe if I spent more time in God's presence, allowing God to come near to me I would want to be near him. But instead, I spend most of my time worrying about how God must view me. I know he loves me fully. I know he has given everything for me. Yet still, I dwell on the fact that I have completely let him down to this point with my life. I have failed to dream his dreams. I have failed to seek his will over my own. And, I cannot help but think on those things when I think about being in his presence. After all, there is nothing I can hide from God. The mere attempt to hide something must be a great offense to the all-knowing creator.
I want to again come into his presence with full praise, honor, worship and obedience. I want to see God, experience God without the guilt of my failures. I want to believe in my deepest parts that he has removed my failure as far as east is from west. Hmm, maybe I should start praying that way instead of typing those thoughts into a computer. Maybe, I should put my mind aside and simply share in God's thoughts and dreams. Maybe I should spend more time in his presence, free of the self-imposed expectations that keep me down.
I think this might be the single biggest foothold I am leaving in my life for Satan these days. I am so tied to my logic, my thoughts that I cannot let go and trust God completely. I am unable to submit completely to him and let his dreams be my dreams. I want to dream big, and God's dreams are certainly big! I need his help. I need him to clear me out of his way. I need him to be present with me.
ADDENDUM (just read this excerpt from Paul Richardson's "A Certain Risk" a few hours after posting this) WOW!
[God's] Spirit within us challenges our calloused old habits. As we stand facing our Creator, the world around us slows, then freezes into silence, leaving us alone under the wide-open sky and in the silence of our thoughts. We must choose. To turn away would mean continuing to exist through some half-lived, masked charade. To step more deeply into [God] involves tearing our souls open and being swept into his dreams.
God is always the more dangerous option.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

When I am Strong

I spent two days last week in Toronto participating in a leadership program called Morpheus. This is a highly respected program in my company, and only a few people each year are selected to be involved in it. The goal is to gain clear understanding into your strengths and create practical ways to build on those strengths. Another large part of the program is to start thinking of and looking for opportunities to put those strengths to work. Of course the company wants that to be within the context of job, but they also encourage implementing these ideas in personal life as well. What about in my Christian walk though? Do these same "strengths based leadership" ideas carry over to my faith? And, if they do not, should I actually ascribe to that focus on strengths in any part of my life?

It would appear that the secular world certainly puts a lot of stock in building on strengths and minimizing places where you must depend on areas of weakness for you. In business, I believe that makes good sense. Business has to be all about efficiencies and effectiveness. "Do what you and only you can do" seems to be a common thought these days. If someone else can do something better and more quickly than you, then team up with them and get more done. Build well-rounded teams of people, not well-rounded people. Ouch! That last part is a dagger to me, as I have always strived for being well-versed in everything I could find time for.

Now, let's look at a Biblical view on this for a minute though. And specifically, let's look at my primary mission on earth: to bring glory and honor to God. When am I best able to do this? When is God's power most visible? Those are the times when I find myself at my weakest, lowest points. God's glory shines most when He takes the worst and transforms it to the best. God's grace comes forth clearly when He uses my weakest abilities to reach a lost person and rescue them from death.

If that is the case, then am I not in some way hiding His glory when I ignore my weaknesses and focus only on my strengths? When I put my weaknesses into His control and commit even those most minimal of my abilities I am truly at my strongest, because I become dependent upon God! I have the power of God fully behind me. I am in no way allowing my pride to enter into the thought that I can do it alone. The arena of my strengths are these: pride, self-reliance, success. The areas where God's power shines for and through me are in humility, dependence, respect, and heartfelt need, all things that come out when I allow my weakness to surface.

Throughout the Bible God shows time and again He loves to use the lowest, the weakest. Abram, Moses, Israel, Rahab, David, Mary, Jesus, the apostles. Not a single one of these people would have been expected to do great things. They were of the least in their times. Yet God elevated them because of their faith and used them to glorify Him. Let Him now expose my weaknesses, use them to His glory, and bring more people into His kingdom through my numerous imperfections. I am strong when He guides me, works through me, and I am dependent.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Priority Me

I feel really bad about how I prioritize lately. I have been more careful not to over-extend myself into too many things. That in itself is a very tough thing for me to do. I really am a firm believer in the idea of trying to do everything and work hard to get good at everything. This belief lead me to think I can do anything at least well enough to fill a gap or need. Clearly in "church work" this means I usually would do whatever job came up and do it gladly. Does that sound bad? Nope, which is why I feel so bad about the current state of my priorities where I am saying no to most of those things.

If it weren't already clear enough that I needed to be more careful with my time/priorities, twice in the last week I have seen the exact same illustration regarding priorities. The picture is simple. You take an empty jar that represents your capacity to do stuff. Then you have little rocks that represent all the things you do that aren't important/critical and big rocks that are the important things you do. If you fill the jar with a bunch of little rocks, you won't have room for all of the big ones. On the flip side though, if you start with the big rocks, you will have room for all the little ones to fit into the "spaces" in the jar. So the question becomes how do I define a big rock and a little rock.

I don't really have an answer for that just yet. I think the answer is, as the author of Ecclesiastes indicates big rocks should always be about what is good for the Kingdom of God. In truth, in my heart I KNOW that is the answer. However, my socially influenced brain will not allow me to make that real in my life just yet. I still am tied to playing by cultural rules that say my kids need to be at all their activities, my family needs that vacation, I need to sustain my money-making job so I can pay for college, retirement and whatever else. I think when Jesus says not to worry about what we eat, drink or wear He really means work to make those things smaller rocks in our jar. Interesting that Jesus points to real necessities to make that point; even what we truly need should be small rocks. This is because Jesus knows the big rock truth: God is the big rock and if we put that rock first then everything else will fall into place.

This means I have to really keep God first in all things. That sounds easy enough. But I think we can all freely admit we don't do it. I know dang well I don't. Not only would my time and priorities be much easier to deal with, but I think this focus would also change how I view others. It would lead me to truly think of others more highly than myself. I would finally be in line with the Biblical ideal of considering others needs more important than my own. That is a big rock view. I think it is rather well phrased, though in older English by GS Merriam, so I will leave it with that:

"With his first waking consciousness, he can set himself to take a serious, manly view of the day before him. He ought to know pretty well on what lines his difficulty is likely to come, whether in being irritable, or domineering, or sharp in his bargains, or self-absorbed, or whatever it be; and now, in this quiet hour, he can take a good, full look at his enemy, and make up his mind to beat him. It is a good time, too, for giving his thoughts a range quite beyond himself,—beyond even his own moral struggles,—a good time, there in the stillness, for going into the realm of other lives. His wife,—what needs has she for help, for sympathy, that he can meet? His children,—how can he make the day sweeter to them? This acquaintance, who is having a hard time; this friend, who dropped a word to you yesterday that you hardly noticed in your hurry, but that comes up to you now, revealing in him some finer trait, some deeper hunger, than you had guessed before,—now you can think these things over."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Depressant of the Bible

It has been a while since I read Ecclesiastes. And, after reading it today I remember why I have avoided it. This just might be one of the most depressing 12 chapters in all of scripture. Maybe that's why it gets placed right before the Song of Solomon.

Oddly though, I actually relate extremely well to this book of the Bible. I, like the author am realizing just how meaningless everything in this life really is. After all, that is indeed what the writer of Ecclesiastes proposes through basically eleven and one half (all but the last few verses) chapters. And I have to agree. All of the things we work so hard for in this earthly existence is nothing. We can't keep it when we die, and we ALL die. What I relate to most though is how the writer thought through every aspect of life. He didn't leave anything out. Strength, money/wealth, security, pleasure (in many forms), education, wisdom, he hit it all. That is my kind of thinking. Dig in deep and leave no stone unturned before you make your call on it. And call it he did. EVERYTHING is meaningless "under the sun."

So basically, we read 11 chapters of a recommendation that we enjoy in this life whatever it is God gives us to enjoy as best we can enjoy it. Why? Because, even though it is meaningless, that's all you got here. Now THAT is depressing to me. Then, in the last few verses the real message comes in loud and clear. "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." There it is; hold onto the eternal perspective. Do work for the Kingdom of God instead of for the world around you. That is where meaning is found in this life! In just that one verse at the end of 12 chapters, the writer takes this from the ultimate depressant to a simple, powerful focus for our lives. What a writer!

There are some other really cool things sprinkled in this book. I am going to dig into those a bit more the rest of this week and weekend. I think I might just start liking this book more and more.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tomorrow is the Night!

Ok, this is going to sound crazy. I mean like I have gone off my rocker kind of crazy. Jesus IS coming back tomorrow night! See, crazy right?

Truth is, I really, REALLY wish I could honestly say I believe that. However, if I am intellectually honest with myself, I simply don't believe it. Now to me, as I will explain the fact that I don't believe that Jesus is coming back tomorrow is quite possibly one of the most sad circumstances of my life right now. Still, I think it might be even more depressing that if I did believe it most of my friends would seriously think about having me committed to the local mental health facility.

Here's the thing about this; if I don't believe Jesus is indeed coming back tomorrow (and I mean REALLY believe it), then I can't really believe that He is coming back this week, this month, this year, in my lifetime. And, if I don't believe He will come back in my lifetime, then really I can't believe He is EVER coming back. Uh oh, that's a slightly large problem. About the best I can say if I don't believe Jesus is coming back tomorrow is that I "generally believe that at some point in the future He will come back." Seriously, I think that is a total punt on the issue of my core faith.

So, why the "need" to believe the return of Christ is now? Well, for starters because He said He was coming back. Secondly, because the early Christians and even apostles believed His return was imminent. Thirdly, that belief might just be the single biggest motivation for my intellect to get out of the way of my soul (filled with the Spirit), so that I can finally and fully participate as a citizen in the Kingdom of God on earth! Look at what that belief did for the building of the early church!

And the other side of this issue; do I lose my credibility in the world if I choose to REALLY believe Christ's return is tomorrow? Probably. The bigger question is do I care about my credibility in the world. If I TRULY, REALLY believe Christ's return is imminent, then no, absolutely not! I don't care what the world thinks of me or my beliefs. All I care about if I really believe Christ will return tomorrow is how many people can I help to be ready for that coming. And I also care that my life reflects Christ to the best of my very limited ability. So, if my co-workers, my friends, my church, my family all look at me like I am crazy I am fine with that except that it might indicate a significant alignment to the world's perspective for those people. And, of course, since at the beginning of this post I said I DO NOT really believe in my soul that Christ is returning tomorrow, I also have that worldly perspective.

This is one of those cases where "common sense," or the "world's sense" seems to all too often persuade us away from the richness and fullness of true, committed hope and faith in ALL of God's blessings and promises. We can find it easy to accept that it is God's blessing on us that we have a gift in music, art, teaching, etc. and yet we cannot believe the grander, eternal blessings still waiting for us. We forget to HOPE. We refuse to have REAL faith that God WILL do what He promised us He would do and instead give in to the fallacy of common sense that says water cannot be turned to wine, that blindness cannot be cured with mud, and that a man dead for three days cannot be raised to walk again. So what is it? Common sense, or Christian Faith and Hope? I choose hope and faith! Call me crazy if you must, but I am going to start believing Christ is returning tomorrow. If it doesn't happen tomorrow and I am wrong, then the next day. But rest assured, I will be right! I choose to believe that starting now!

I am going to leave the whole philosophical argument around "can I really choose to believe something" as well as the other somewhat obvious philosophical concerns here for another time. So, please don't grill me too much on that front. I know there are other thoughts to cover here. But, just think how on fire we all would be to share Christ and serve others if we ALL REALLY believed He was coming tomorrow! What if our churches, entire congregations rallied behind the solid, real belief that Christ returns tomorrow? Wouldn't that be something to see?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Choices, Choices, Choices, Decisions, Decisions

I thought maybe it would be good to go back a while and recount the points of clarity I have experienced over the last year. These are the points in time where I believe God has clearly moved me, spoken to me, however best you want to say that. Along with simply reviewing those points in time, I also thought it would be good to think about the choices and decisions I have made from being in those moments. Here goes.

The first of these moments came during one of my company's sales kick-off events in Toronto. We had an extremely gifted story teller as our keynote speaker. Andy Andrews spoke for what I think was around an hour, thought I know for certain I would have stayed there for two days fully engaged in his words. The main point of his message for us was simply this: choose who you want to be and take action to be that person. I already knew of his book "The Traveller's Gift" prior to this event, but afterwards I indeed picked up the book and read it. I read it faster than just about any other book I have ever had in my hands. The point of the book is discovery of seven principals of a great life. Again, these principals are centered on making choices and decisions, intentionally. This book was a huge inspiration to me. For months after reading it, I took the suggestions (no I am not giving those here, read the book) to heart and put them to work. I CHOSE daily, hourly to be what I wanted to be. I chose to smile even when I didn't want to. I chose to take FULL responsibility for myself. While doing this, I noticed that my circumstance didn't seem to matter so much. And my circumstances at that point in time were rather dire and VERY stressful. Great timing there God!

The next moment was again while I was travelling. I was in Orlando for a few customer meetings. I had, unfortunately let the inspiration of the 7 principals fade and I was struggling to find purpose for what I was doing. I woke up in the morning at about 4:15, which I NEVER do. A movie was just starting on the TV, and it was a movie I had not seen, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Imporium. Now, while this movie certainly puts across some not so Godly perspectives, God's word came to me through this movie. That message was this: Childlike faith; childlike awe and wonder; Belief that ANYTHING is possible. I had long forgotten how to look at things with fresh wonderment. I seriously was in tears watching this movie. As I watched Molly Mahoney, I couldn't help but feel such a deep pain as the world stole from her the belief in the impossible and her since of awe. In some ways, yes it was pain for that character as I watched the movie, but the tears were because I had made my own choice to allow the world to steal that from my life. God no longer impressed me. God no longer sparked awe in me. And at that point, I knew, remembered what I was missing. I wanted it back right then. What was best about that timing was the email I received right after the movie ended. Through blurry eyes I read the cancellation of my day's meetings. So, I spent the rest of the morning begging God for forgiveness and restoration. I asked for restoration to that childlike wonderment. And, as always when a broken person asks, God answers quickly. Immediately I saw the world again with new eyes. I again was able to choose to see everything each day as new and ready to be God's wonderful creation.

Of course over time I have let that inspiration fade as well. However, the good news here is that those moments (along with many others in recent months) are so vivid in my memories. I can, as I am doing now reflect on them and gain some of that inspiration again. More than this though, I am much more aware of EVERY decision I make. I am focused on not just these "grand" moments where God forces His words back on me, but I am looking at every point and trying to look at each moment in God's view. I was never a fan of the whole WWJD craze, but that is where I am today. What would Jesus do? Not just in general, but in every moment of every day, what would Jesus do? This is transforming me more deeply, more completely, and more quickly than anything ever has done for me before. And I feel more alive now than at any point I can remember. Each choice, each decision is an opportunity for awe, wonder, amazement and joy! Keep it coming God!!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What I am Reading

Well, obviously I am reading a lot in the Bible. But, beyond that, what books and stuff are helping to reinforce, shape, extend, and alter my thoughts? Here is a short list of the best reads from the last while. Of course, some of these are more entertainment books. On the whole though, I don't read too much for entertainment; I always try to find real value from even those books. Also, there are some good business/strategy books mixed in as well. Helps me keep a good balance on my views.
  • When God Builds a Church, Bob Russel
  • Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, David Platt
  • Overton Window, Glenn Beck
  • Traveller's Gift, Andy Andrews
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • Sherlock Homles Novels and Stories, Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Myth of a Christian Nation, Gregory A. Boyd
  • Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim
  • Screwtape Letters (again), C.S. Lewis
  • A Tale of Two Cities (again), do I have to tell you who wrote this?
  • 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell
  • Fearless, Max Lucado
The next book on the list is Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala. Then, here is my wish list of books I need to pick up (from memory, I have a few more typed out on my other computer).
  • The Christian Athiest, Craig Groeschel
  • Forgotten God, Francis Chan
  • Outliers, Malcom Gladwell
Feel free to recommend some other good ones. I will likely add them to my list and get to them soon.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Two-way Street

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about what service should look like for a Christian, a Christ follower, a Christ-like person. Clearly Christ served others with little, if any regard for himself. So, if I truly want to be Christ-like, then I must server others sacrificially as Christ served others. That is pretty straight forward really.

But, I also see places where Christ talks to His disciples about others in some cases serving them too. For instance, in three of the gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) Jesus send out the disciples with the recommendation to "shake the dust off your feet" if people do not "welcome" them. I believe this term "welcome" from Jesus would infer that the people of the towns they travel to would indeed serve them, feed them, give them drink and a place to stay. This was the expected custom of the Jewish communities in Jesus' day. This then creates a two-way street.

In one way we, as Christ followers are absolutely to server others. In so doing we are to graciously serve (service though the recipient might not deserve it), and sacrificially serve (at cost to our self). On the other side of the street though, we should allow others to serve us when we are in need. This is something I think most of us just refuse to even consider. In our self-sufficient culture the option for an "upstanding Christian" to let someone else provide for them is just not necessary, maybe even lazy. So, except in extreme cases (deaths, births, unexpected job loss, etc.) it is rare that any Christian is willing to admit they could use help, or allow anyone to help them. This, of course is ten-fold worse for us guys than the ladies.

What this says when we refuse to be served by others is that we are too proud to be served by other people. We are capable of dealing with our own issues, problems without anyone else. This mentality at its core is straight out selfish pride, the lack of humility. Christ allowed himself to be cared for by the twelve, Mary, Martha and others. Why, then should we not allow others to care for us? This two-way street was present while Jesus walked the earth, and was present in the first Christian church in Acts. The fact that "they had everything in common" certainly indicates that they were serving each other in love.

To live in Christian community is to server each other in Christ-like service. It is to sacrifice your own desires for your neighbor, even your enemy. It is to become humble and recognize that you are NOT capable of handling everything/anything, and you NEED others to serve you too. It is to be in submission to one another. It is, as I said in an earlier post (building up), the fact that we are all a part of each other. Therefore we are all to serve one another. This is not simply who can serve the best; Christianity is about humble service and honest acceptance of grace from God and others. Besides, don't you think God provides for you through the service of others? So, to refuse that service out of pride is to refuse God's provision for you! Accept His gifts; be reliant on Christ in each other!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Reading the Bible?

According to recent Gallup and Barna research ( there appears to be a slightly scary issue in our Christian lives. I know I was part of these horrible stats on Bible reading and Bible study for several years in the last decade. I have also been part of the "good" side of these numbers during some of these years. However, when I look at these numbers, I cannot be happy that only 30% or so of "Christians" are reading the Bible for at least 52 minutes a week. Seriously, a Christian is not able to pick up and read the Bible more than 7.5 minutes a day!?

Two points I need to get off my chest on this soap box. First, the Bible is God's word. It is the sole source for learning how to better live our lives according to His purpose for us. We cannot know we are within God's will if we aren't reading His word. Second, I know a lot of people will say "I don't know how to read the Bible; what if I get it wrong?" Hmm, how to respond to that one? Maybe this will do: LEARN HOW TO READ IT THEN. Get involved with someone (or several someones) and get guidance on studying the Bible. However, it is good to keep in mind there are really two levels of reading the Bible, "reading" and "studying". I think most everyone should be able to handle "reading" without much help. You can always ask questions if something is confusing at the surface. And I would bet most of us spend much more than 7.5 minutes a day reading other books or watching TV/Movies. Maybe we need to check our priorities.

Here is what I am doing to "read" my Bible now. I open the Today's New International Version (TNIV) translation and pick up where I left off the day before. Right now, I am reading through Exodus. In the last month I have read Romans, Hebrews, Genesis, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Joshua, and Malachi. This kind of "reading" doesn't take a whole lot of time. Still, this rather surface level reading keeps me focused on a Christian worldview as I go through each day. I get refreshment, knowledge, and encouragement from these texts. In many cases, a specific verse will really hit home for problems I face that day or helps me work through a thought I had been struggling with. For instance, I had been really thinking about how to speak about a problem I was having with a person at work. The morning before I was going to approach them (and it would not have been pleasant), I read through Ephesians 4 (also sparked the Build Up post). That reading certainly kept me from saying much of what I was going to say and also changed my heart toward that person.

Take the other side of reading the Bible, the "studying" side. This is where the numbers in the Barna research go way down. To study the Bible requires devoted focus and multiple sources. For instance, to study the text in Ephesians 4, I used my TNIV and NKJV translations of the Bible. Then, I did a little digging on Paul and the city of Ephesus to get a better historical context for the letter. Since the translations I used seemed to differ a bit, I also went back and looked at a concordance to see what the original Greek words likely meant. OK, enough. See, study take a little more effort. But, if I truly want to allow myself to "be transformed by the renewing of my mind," as Paul says in Romans 12, then this is a VERY small price to pay. And I DO want to be transformed. I know I cannot do it on my own, and studying the Bible seems the best way to do that daily.

I think some churches do a good job of offering bible study classes focused on topical or single book studies. These are great and certainly help move people into reading the Bible more. However, I wonder how much these "helps" are treated more as an excuse to not read on our own. I wonder if the thinking is "if my church only has a once a week study, then that's all I need to be doing." Another side issue with these types of studies is that they really don't help us to better study the Bible on our own. Instead, they seem to be a continual spoon-feeding of God's word when in many cases the people attending these studies should be moving past spoon fed nuggets. Again, I think these weekly Bible studies/groups are great! They are certainly needed to guide the new believers. I just think we need to start creating some Bible study groups/classes that are aimed at teaching more mature Christians how to read and study the Bible on their own. Let's start REALLY growing and making disciples of our churches.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Life Dare

Our small group has decided to go through the Love Dare book for our current small group session. I think this is a great idea to help strengthen our marriages. I also think this concept can be extended to help build Christ-likeness in each individual life. So, try these "dares" I decided a while back to implement in my life. Of course, I have to apologize here to my wife as she is the brunt of one of these. ;-)

  1. Read SOMETHING from the Bible EVERY day. Even if you only "have time" for one verse, read it!
    If you tell me you don't have time to read the Bible I am going to start asking you what else you read, what TV shows do you watch, how many college football games do you watch, etc. I know I excused myself for way too long with how little time I had to read my Bible. It was just that, excuses.

  2. Talk about what you read with somebody else (this is where my poor wife is probably saying – why is it always me? It's not honey, just seems that way.)
    Our calling from God is to share the gospel story with others. It isn't always easy to have these discussions, but at least start talking about the Bible with people. While I do indeed frequently talk to my wife about the interesting things I read in the Bible, I am also talking to other people too. The whole point of this "dare" is to start getting comfortable with humility that you might not know everything about the Bible, but you can still discuss it (and your faith) with other people. Hopefully, you will share your thoughts with non-Christians more often than those who already believe. In either case, growth of God's Kingdom occurs when we share the Word.

  3. Listen to Christian music instead of secular or talk radio (NeetToBreathe would be my top recommendation)
    It's rather interesting at how many eye rolls I get on this one. We seem to think that what we listen to doesn't really matter. I, and many passages in Paul's letters tend to disagree. If you don't believe me on this one, just try this dare for a month. Change your radio at home and in your car to the local Christian station, put in a Christian music CD, or create a good Christian playlist on your iPOD. Commit to it; don't change the station and don't tune it out. LISTEN to the lyrics! Music has an amazing ability to speak into your soul if you let it.

  4. Tell yourself (seriously, do this no matter how dumb/crazy you think it is) "God is going to use me in an incredible way today". Now on this one, believe it! Look for that opportunity, and if at the end of the day you don't think He worked through you, then get ready for that big moment tomorrow. IT IS COMING!
    God wants us all to make the most of our lives here. He wants us to have joy and contentment. That joy and contentment will only come when we allow ourselves to be used in His plan. He gives us chances every day to serve others, to share the gospel, to show love. Even in places where you may think something is very small, God can use it in a huge way. One simple conversation to encourage a struggling soul might lead to that person being a Christ follower the next day, month or year. That is HUGE! Even if you don't get to see the outcome, have faith that God uses your good and faithful acts in big and important ways.
I think if you commit to those dares each day, as I have over the last few months, you will see I change in your mind, heart, life. I am taking a bit of leap here, but I think my wife would vouch for the change in me during this time.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Questions I am Asking Myself

This is a list of questions I am trying to answer over recent months/years. Of course, many of the books that I have "happened" upon in this time seem to speak directly to some of these questions. I love it when God works in my daily life that way! It gets me excited; it keeps me moving! Think about some of these questions HONESTLY. If you aren't being honest with yourself, then why bother with any belief? Anyway, would love to see some comments on some of these.
  1. Do you believe you are honest with yourself
  2. Do you even KNOW yourself - as a human, created in the image of God, as God's creation living in a fallen world, as a sinful person needing grace/forgiveness
  3. Who is Jesus and who is God
  4. Do you KNOW God
  5. Is it really as easy as "just accept Jesus" or does the cross require/expect more
  6. What is the church
  7. Do you believe you live this idea of "the church" out (honestly)
  8. Why has Jesus not returned
  9. What is your purpose, God's will for you
  10. Are you more aligned with God's will or the culture you live in
  11. What would happen if you truly lived as Christ's church
  12. Do you believe you are on the "narrow way", or are you walking with everyone else on the "wide path"
  13. Do you need to wake up to life
  14. Do you live a life that reflects "to live is Christ and to die is gain"? Do you remember the context of when Paul wrote those words?
  15. Is our country founded on Christian principles - really?
  16. What does it mean that government is "appointed" by God? - Rom 13
  17. Can a Christian nation even exist
  18. Who "rules" the governments of the world
  19. Is Christ different in every culture? Does His message need to change for every culture?
  20. What is the Kingdom of God
  21. Are the world's governments part of the Kingdom of God - Can they be?
  22. How do the Cross, Christ's love and sacrifice mesh with "justified" war, like say the crusades?
  23. What are you willing to fight for, what are you willing to die for and would Christ fight/die for those things? How would Christ fight/die for those things?

  24. How would you respond to someone who threatened you, your family? Is that how Christ would respond (think about Peter cutting of the ear of Jesus' arresting party and Jesus' response)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Dreaming Church

Main idea: Do our churches dream? And if so, are they dreaming the right dreams?

Too many churches seem to be more about building great and happy lives for their congregants. Instead of dreaming about the day when Christ returns, or when ALL people have been touched by the love of Christ, we are happy to dream about the day our softball field is completed. Or we may dream about the day when hundreds of "new" people come through the door of our fabulous new sanctuary over which we spent so many prayer hours and so many dollars. Of course many churches today are absolutely and honestly focused on reaching lost souls for Christ. And, many of those honest churches are blowing out the buildings they worship in. But, I would suggest that those churches likely are not dreaming about a new building, but rather are dreaming of how best to reach the next lost soul. If the new building aids in that purpose, then raise the roof! Hopefully churches across the globe can refocus their dreams on being a people acting like Christ. After all, if, as Jesus says, when we seek we find, shouldn't we be seeking out and dreaming of the right things?

I think that is part of what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7:7-11. God is thrilled to give us everything we want or need, all that we dream of if we seek Him out and ask Him. So, does this text mean that literally ANYTHING we want we get? Well, fortunately for our sake, no. In context of the "sermon on the mount" where this text rests, Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God. Thus, God's commitment to grant us whatever we ask and seek is focused on furthering His kingdom. If we are a church dreaming of reaching lost souls and serving them, God will gladly show us where to go, how to go, and provide us the means to get there – if we ask Him. This type of dreaming church has people, not buildings that attract lost and hurting souls. Lost and hurting people are not drawn to buildings, or venues; they are drawn to loving, compassionate people willing to help them.

If we dream, however, of a grand new building that will attract hundreds of new people through our doors, I doubt that God is really all that excited to help us out. With that "dream" our focus (if we are honest about it) is not on expanding the Kingdom, but likely is more about grabbing "market share" from the existing pool of believers with a possible side benefit of a few unsure people being attracted to the building. Is the saving of that few a good thing? Absolutely! I think that is God making the best of our own initiatives though, rather than us seeking out and implementing God's will.
I am not sure if the church I am part of is actually dreaming right now or not. Certainly a good number of our people are, but I am just not sure we are all dreaming the same dreams. I wonder what God would do through this local part of the body of Christ if we all began dreaming the same dream, a dream focused on reaching the lost in our community, our world. What would happen if we all forgot about building our personal lives into "secure" lifestyles and instead pursued a dream for the Kingdom of God? That is a church I want to see in action!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Image Restoration

Since I may not have time today to really reflect on my Bible reading, I figured I would go ahead and post another paper I wrote. So…

As a techno-junkie, when the phrase image restoration is mentioned I immediately begin thinking about digital cameras, computer software and top-notch photo-printers. Occasionally, though, I think instead about the historical photographic prints of my ancestors in need of restoration so that I can have them preserved for the rest of my life. In either case I always forget that the image in focus cannot be restored if it wasn’t initially created in the first place. Furthermore, just the implication that the image is in need of being fixed indicates that the original is far superior to what is in hand at present. This process of image restoration can serve as a metaphor for the Image of God. Whether speaking in terms of digital photographs where the original composition loses its perfection in digital translation, or film-based prints that have been distorted from their original over time, or the Image of God that man once perfectly possessed that is now corrupt, the image is in need of restoration.

In the creation story of Genesis it is stated that man is created in the Image of God. While it does not clearly state what this image actually is, it can be inferred from other passages that this image can be described by a possession of certain traits: intellect, emotion, free will and Spiritual Capacity. Beyond this there is an obvious knowledge present to man-kind in “the Garden” of how to relate to God, the Creator. This intended Image of God that was placed in man-kind was exactly what the Creator intended; it was his masterpiece of creation. But, because of the free-will nature He placed within his art, the image became corrupt. There are many ways that a photographic print can become corrupted, but in the case of the Image of God, this corruption can be more clearly pin-pointed. With the first sin of Adam, man lost the knowledge he possessed of how to relate to God. Following the sin, God again comes into Adam and Eve’s presence, but they are no longer able to be open with Him; they hide from Him in shame. The fact that they hid indicates they still possess the basic form of the Image, but the art has been smudged. God’s perfectly created image in man is tarnished and in need of restoration.

In order to better understand the type of restoration needed, it must be clear exactly what damage was done to the print. In “the fall” Adam took the ability for man to know God as he should. Without this knowledge and without its restoration, man is forever doomed to a life filled with a propensity to sin. This urge to sin, and the inevitable act of sin, leads to a life and eternity alienated from the Creator. This is the form of distortion that creates the need for restoration. I seek to maintain my art in as close to its original form as possible because I want to enjoy them for my entire life. God, however, could, if He chose simply create a new creation. So, why restore the corrupted one? While this question cannot be succinctly answered from scripture, it is clear that whatever His reason for wanting to restore the creation it developed out of His love for His creation. Perhaps that love is so great that there exists no other reason. Paul makes this assumption in Ephesians 2:4-5, “because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” Clearly His love played a large part in the restoration process.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a techno-junkie. So, with that I love to talk how. How do you use the computer to fix an ugly picture? How do you air-brush that flaw out of a face of an otherwise perfect print? How did God work to restore His perfect piece of art? Oddly, the ability to understand the resources directed at the photographic processes is ingrained in me, but the ability to understand the Bible and the process God used is not so easily attained. Actually, this isn’t entirely odd; I no longer have the innate knowledge of how to understand and relate to God. But, as His plan is reveled through scripture and other people to me, I am able to begin to draw the picture of the process for myself.

God’s restoration began as soon as Adam and Eve were removed from the garden. God chose Abram to begin a line of people, Israel, which would be His people. Through this line God would bring a single person who would restore the original image This person could not just be another man from the line of Adam, however. It required the act of God himself to repair the flaw. So, Jesus, God on earth as man, was the climax of the process. Jesus led the life of man that God had originally intended: fully devoted and in a true relationship with the Creator. He provided the example for everyone. He became an atoning sacrifice on a cross and was raised by God to provide the capacity for the eternal relationship that Adam and Eve should have claimed. The tool for restoration is, therefore, available to everyone. But not all claim it and use it. Since free-will is still part of the perfect image, we still maintain the ability to refuse to be restored. But, for those of us who choose to be restored we allow the restoration to happen in part, according to Romans 12:2, “by the renewing of our minds.” The combination of our intellect, emotion, spirituality, and an attained knowledge of a relationship with God are again available to us.

God is the ultimate artist. He painted a perfect picture that was marred by the choice of His own masterpiece. As any artist would attempt to do, God worked through the election of Israel, Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, to restore His masterpiece to its immaculate, gallery form and content. And one day He will complete the restoration, and we will be eternally united with our Creator.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lessons Learned, Lessons Forgotten

I love reading Old Testament texts. Mostly I like reading these, I think, because the stories of Israel usually leave me feeling like I am doing pretty well with this whole Godly life thing. The nation of Israel, after all had God personally speaking to them and working on their behalf, and the STILL got it wrong. Almost constantly wrong it seems. In some cases it is just flat out humorous at how quickly they go from "we love and worship God" to "who is God?" But, I think the other reason I love reading the Old Testament is how crystal clear I see myself doing EXACTLY the same things as Israel. Talk about the text speaking to you, or coming to life; that is how I see those Old Testament texts. They literally show me the lessons I have so quickly forgotten about how to live for God. Furthermore, they also show me just as clearly the price we pay for that disobedient life.

The easiest place to see this "love God" turns "no God" spin is in Judges. The whole book of Judges seems to be a generational flip-flop for Israel. And each time they flip their lives away from God, they end up enslaved to another oppressor. They are oppressed for a time, realize their oppression is due to leaving God, and they begin to cry out for God to save them. God, in His grace and love sends another Judge to restore them once again. Then Israel just goes right back through those same motions over and over again.

Of course this model doesn't end with the move from Judges to kings for Israel. The period of the kings basically follow this same model as well. With Saul for instance, the model actually plays out within the life of that one king. He flips from devotion to God in the early days of leadership of Israel to complete disdain for God in the latter days of his reign. Even after the period of kings when Israel is constantly under control of other nations, this model still holds true.

In the last warning of the prophets given in the book of Malachi, God again calls His nation back to Him. Malachi points out many specific areas where Israel has rejected God. He also points to their history and "brother" nations (Edom) to show how this departure for God can end. But, he also points to the hope of Christ that will restore them to God. So, what are the lessons we can learn from Malachi? First, look at a couple of the specific issues Malachi points out.

The first one I look at is the lack of devotion/commitment to God (1:7-9). Israel had fallen into a pattern of sacrificing unacceptable items to God. The nation of God suddenly did not see fit to give of their first fruits, their best animals. God, in their eyes wasn't really doing much for them anyway, so why give all of the best to Him. In verse 8, you can see also that clearly Israel would not even think about doing the same for their earthly masters. So, in essence, their oppressors were being elevated above God. And don't we really do the same today? While I know there are exceptions out there, I think we mostly give God what is left in our budgets. We justify/rationalize the "needs" we have for our flat screens, our fresh cool cars, and flush 401k accounts just as the Israelites justified "needing" to give the best of their items to the governors who oppressed them.

Another critical point made in this text comes in 3:13-15 where Malachi says Israel no longer appears to believe God is relevant. This is a similar mistake we make today as well. We look at the world around us and think if God is still around (or ever was) then certainly "evil" people should not prosper as they do. This is a temporal and untrusting view though. And God has proven time and again He is 100% trustworthy and faithful to us. We just need to learn to be trusting of and faithful to Him.

As He did with the Judges time and again for Israel, He is still doing with us today. When we follow Him, and we are truly committed to Him, He is faithful to us and His promises. As He says in Malachi 3:10, "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse…and try Me in this…If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it." Can you trust that? Are you willing to fully commit to God and trust Him with your life? Me, well, as I have said – I am moving that way. I will keep you posted on how He guides me along.

Monday, September 6, 2010


To get a context for this post, read James 2:14-28, Phil 2:1-18, Romans 12:1-2, 1 Cor. 13. But don’t just read the text. Read it within a context of Christ-likeness to which all Christians (what else does that mean?) should be devoted. Christ-likeness calls us to sacrifice, service, and full devotion. If He is truly Lord of your life, what does that look like? After reading those texts, you can start to see where this post is rooted and maybe won’t think I am quite as crazy as I sound.

I once believed whole-heartedly my future salvation was 100% secure. Call it the “once saved, always saved” view of things I guess. However, I continue to move further away from this belief as I read (and study) more of scripture. I hear people around me talk all the time about being saved, but I wonder how many of these people really spend even a minute thinking about loving others, serving others.

I need to be completely forthcoming in this regard: I am really no further along in this than those who say “I am saved” but serve only their own ambitions and desires. In fact, I might be miles behind those people. See, I recognize in myself and in scripture that I should serve as Christ served, that I should love as Christ loved. That is to say I should love and serve with complete sacrifice. Yet, I still sit here typing on my nice computer, in the comfort of my big house, with every creature comfort I could want. I will have to answer for that, but I think God will look on all of us the same way when judgment comes and His question will be, “am I LORD of your life?” Sadly, I don’t think I could answer that positively today. I am still too tied to this culture I am in and trying “to serve two masters.”

It should be easy to just act on my belief, my faith and give up all of this “stuff” that holds me captive. And, I think if it were just me, I would probably do so tomorrow. But this is where I KNOW I am miles behind other people who are (or choose to be) ignorant to this issue: I am consciously choosing to continue in this mode. I am unable to justify taking my family into this place of full devotion the way I have come to see it. Why? Because I have led them to this point of cultural saturation. Should I be the one to lead them out? Of course, but I am afraid of what that would mean for the “happy” family. I am taking steps in that direction, and I hope that God will bless the steps in my process. I hope that He will strengthen me, my family and will be with us as I transition our family to be His servants and true reflections of Christ.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Living with Ignorance

Being the rather logical person I am, it is a little bit difficult for me to basically give up on finding an answer. Whether I am looking for an answer to my daughter’s math problems (wow, I don’t remember 4th grade math being that tough), or whether I am working through a philosophical dilemma, I just seem to get obsessed if I cannot come up with a valid answer. In most cases, the worst thing that happens in this pursuit is driving my wife nuts with wanting to talk it out with her. However, in the case of trying to answer “who is God” I am realizing something worse might be at the end of my search if I am not willing to live with some level of ignorance.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t constantly ask and search out who God is. Instead I think what I am trying to say is that I should be very careful not to define who He is. I think as long as I continue to discover God and never let that discovery morph into defining God I am moving closer to God and into a stronger, more personal relationship with Him. When I start trying to define Him, I am actually moving away from Him and creating my version of who He is, which would be a much too limited picture of His true fullness. And in trying to define Him, I do believe we actually can carry it as far as creating our own gospel. I think this is probably where John Calvin decided that our “curiosity” is sinful.

In his “Institutes” John Calvin says it is actually a sin to dig too far into who God is or the ways of God. I am not willing to go as far as Calvin seems to go, but I do think we do ourselves harm by not realizing we simply are not capable of knowing God fully in this earthly life. I know this will be argued, but the simple fact is we are finite; God is infinite. I just don’t think we finite beings are able to truly grasp the all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present God. Add to that our fallen state as sinful humanity, and I am pretty sure we stand no chance at fully knowing God in this life.

Now, with that said, what can we know of God? We know Him through the incarnation of Jesus, God in flesh on earth. The way Jesus lived, interacted, obeyed, committed, and loved is our best and really only picture of God that we can understand. Jesus lived a holy (set apart) life. He loved unconditionally and sacrificially. This is the Father God. As Christ himself says, if we have seen him, we have seen the Father. How can we really know more about God than what Jesus offered us in His life?

Well, maybe we can get closer to the fullness of God through prayer. After all, God asks us to be in prayer constantly. He encourages us to bring all of our requests to Him. He promises us He is able to do more than we can ask or even imagine. Then, if we are asking to know Him fully, then I believe He will be true to His word and give us that knowledge. I also believe that until Christ returns, we will likely not be given a complete picture of God. We just can’t handle that in our messed up state, even with the Spirit in us. But, soon enough Christ will return and we will finally know the true awesome nature of God. We will see Him in all glory, and His full enormity. And maybe as our finite minds contemplate who He is as best we can today, that is the reason for “fearing” God; His shear awesomeness and enormity is something we just cannot grasp, which should leave anyone with a reverent fear.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Building Up

Most of my adult life I have been working in one form or another to build things. Now most of the time my job was to build stuff for other people like software applications, computer networks, or marketing plans. For a very short time, however, I was focused on building people. More specifically, I was devoted for a time to leading and building teenagers as a student minister. While I am sure God used me during that time to work some good in a few peoples’ lives, I wish I had then the picture of what I now think it means to “build up” as God wants us to do.

The whole idea of building in our culture unfortunately roots in a concept of self-sufficiency and self-promotion. Our “American Dream” mentality, which was a 1930’s term by the way, pushes us to build a better “life” for ourselves and our families. It drives us to work harder and build bigger, no matter what it is we are building. This has certainly led to our country having the largest economy in the world and allowed for an incredible amount of wealth to be built for a huge number of people.

The bad thing is that this same “American Dream” appears to have infiltrated into the beliefs of the body of Christ. In most churches today, and sadly in my life as well, people (self included) have carried the ideals of the American Dream into the building of our churches here in America. We take the view that we need to better market our churches to reach more people. If we reach more people, or attract more people to our services, then we can build the church bigger. Now to be clear, I think deep down the intentions behind this “build it bigger” mentality is likely based on real, Christ-centered belief. However, this belief is being so co-mingled with the values of the American Dream that we are finding it difficult to recognize the TRUE Gospel message in the midst of a watered down or even altered gospel.

I know on many occasions I have found myself fighting to use scripture to justify what I want. But, whenever I remember to really read the Bible contextually, placing myself in the authors’ time and place, it is rarely the case that my thoughts, speech, or actions can be justified at all unless, of course, I am actually being Christ-like. It is amazing to see how much clearer it becomes that our culture is so maligned to Christ’s teachings and example when I look through a truly Biblical lens.

Take Ephesians 4:25-32 for example (read it if you haven’t lately). If you just read this, it is easy to assume our culture isn’t too far out of whack. However, when you look at this text in context to the time and place it was written, and when you consider it in light of the entire New Testament, the verses take on a much deeper meaning. This deeper meaning casts a dark shadow on our American Dream culture. It also, sadly, casts that exact dark shadow on many of our American churches.

So, what is in this text that we likely miss in a light reading? Well, let’s just look at a few words from the text in Ephesians 4:25-32: truthfully, body, building, and forgiving. When Paul says “speak truthfully” is he really just saying don’t lie to each other? Nope. This concept of truth Paul uses here (look into the Greek) is really rooted in the notion that Christ (the Gospel) is truth. So, when he says to speak in truth, he is really saying something more like speak in Christ to one another. I think this means we should always be speaking to each other with the heart of Christ on our lips – not so easy anymore. Now, moving just past that “speak truthfully” we find the phrase “one body.” Here, Paul’s usage of the term body is again a bit deeper than I think we typically read. It is not just saying we are a single part of the body of Christ (although that is indeed part of the implication). More fully, Paul intends that we should realize each of us is actually part of one another. You and I, in Christ are intimately connected. Anything I say to or about you might as well be to or about me. Any action I take for myself is in reality an action you have taken. That puts a slightly different spin on EVERYTHING we do, think or say. Now we can no longer assume what we do only affects ourselves, but according to the Bible, it affects Christ and all other believers. YIKES!

Quickly, let’s touch on building and forgiving. Paul’s use of building seems to be an idea of creating a strong foundation and continual strengthening so as to provide support for more and more people as the church grows. So, encouragement is the name of the game here. Always be encouraging to each other in order to ensure a solid and stable foundation for all believers. And this portion of Ephesians ends with Paul saying “forgive each other, as Christ did for you.” The term forgive here entails not only the release of a debt, but further it actually carries the idea of grace. It isn’t enough to drop the debt of another person, but we should do that EVEN THOUGH they do not deserve it (just as Christ did for us all). Even further, this term “forgive” for Paul is often connected with restoration. If we tie all of that together, then “forgive” here actually indicates we should with grace forgive others (since Christ did that for us) with the goal of restoring them to relationship with us.

I think a light reading of Biblical texts is great. I do. However, if we are not really digging into the scriptures we run the risk of moving our churches further and further away for the REAL TRUTH of Christ. I know for me, my deeper reading in recent months has again opened my eyes to my failings in this area. I know changes are needed in my life, and changes are coming. Every day as I study, not just read the Bible I can feel the Spirit growing stronger inside me. I am moving more towards having a servant heart. I am seeing areas where I do or say things that likely are not good for building up Christ in others, and I hope to root out those “footholds” for Satan in my life.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Community Faith

It's funny how God seems to point you back at places in your life right when you need to see different perspectives from those moments. I decided to go back through some of the papers and research I did during my undergraduate studies at Atlanta Christian College. This is, of course, after over the last several months doing a ton of thinking, praying, and debating with myself about life direction. This self-conversing has taken me further into the belief that we, as Americans often lose sight of what our Christian faith is really all about. I think I am ready to be honest now though. So, looking back at my old papers I ran across one called "A Community Faith". This was a Biblical Theology paper and thus had me focus on faith and community from that "right thinking" side of things. Again, in the refreshed view I have now of what real Christian faith should be, this topic should be front and center. OK, rather than continue to bore with my feelings and whatever, I am just going to post that paper. Not a long read, and might be good to think about.

Even a cursory reading of the Bible will leave a reader with the idea that the human race is created to be in community with each other. From the creation account to John’s revelation there is always evidence, and much of it, that community existed. With community being a constant throughout the Bible it is also clear that this was not a consequence of God’s or mankind’s actions, but rather part of God’s plan in His creation.

It is easy to see in the creation account that “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). However, even before God created the universe there ware community in existence. The creation account in Genesis 1:26 indicates God speaking in the first person plural. God, himself had community in some fashion even before he created the universe and mankind. So, it is no stretch to think that community would also be part of the crown of His creation. In the beginning community was simply that God created woman alongside of man. But even in this, the idea was that the communion was two-sided: between mankind and with God. In the garden God and man were together until mankind chose to change that communion in committing the first sin.

In order to restore community in that original state, God began to set out a “new community” that would function until the end of times. This process began with the election of Israel through Abraham in Genesis 12. God made a covenant with Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed (Gen. 18:18). This covenant with Abraham was also a creation of a new community that would exist betweek God, Abraham and the entire nation of Israel. This covenant relationship between God and Israel introduced a different and temporary form of community that was later more clearly defined by the Mosaic Law.

God defined the covenant community between Israel and Himself in the law He gave to Moses. The law served as the guide for how the nation of Israel would live in community with one another and with God. There were many laws given, but the first of these were the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20 indicates that four of these commandments dealt with relationship with God while the other six focused on relationship with others. Even in these, community with God and community with others is stressed greatly. Though this form of community was far from the perfect communion that existed in the Garden, it was at least a step in the restoration of that communion. It quickly became obvious though, the law was not sufficient to maintain community with God, as Israel was unable to keep the laws of Moses.

With the band-aid of the law no longer holding together the bond between God and His people, another form of community was needed. This community began with the birth of Christ and came to its pubescent stage at Pentecost, as depicted in Acts 2. Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection established a new covenant relationship between God and His people. Part of this new covenant was that it no longer existed between God and Israel, but between God and all people. With Christ’s victory over death the community was established in Him through his blood. By uniting with Christ through faith in His saving acts, mankind is able to again be in a close relationship with God similar in form to what was experienced in the garden by the guidance and indwelling of the Spirit.

The presence of the Spirit is key in the book of Acts. As the church, or community of God’s people, begins to grow it becomes clear that this new community of believers is bonded together through the blood of Christ, becoming one with Him. The Spirit becomes the evidence of this relationship between Christ and the community of believers. Still, this community is not as it was in the garden, and an assured hope still exists that mankind will again experience the community that God created in Eden.

The picture given by John in Revelation is of the Saints praising and worshiping God in His presence. Another image shown of the final community by John and Christ is that of a banquet. The banquet will be for all who believe that Christ is Lord of their lives. Those in attendance of this banquet will experience the everlasting community with each other in the presence of God.

In this limited look at some of the key points in the Bible that focus on the community relationship with God, it is easy to see that from Creation to the return of Christ, community is crucial in God’s plan for man. We were made to be in community with each other and with God. He wants mankind to function as a complete entity with separate parts (1 Cor. 12). We are united together in Christ and are in community with God both individually and corporately as the Church.