Month: April 2012

Insignificant and Small

Have you ever felt insignificant?  Small?  Lost within a large crowd?  Have you ever looked at the night sky and thought how small and insignificant we seem in the vast universe around us?  

We find ourselves on a small blue planet in the back alleys of the universe looking out at an amazing view of just a few of the billions of stars around us.  It all makes me feel very small and it was meant to.  

As I look at the universe and see how vast it really is, the question I ask is this, Who made all of this?  What kind of God is this that could make and sustain all that I see?  

The Bible says that God named every star and knows each one by name.  Really?  In the vastness of this amazing universe God claims to not only be the creator but also the sustainer of it all.  What fascinates me as I look at the night sky are these words from Genesis 1,  “He also made the stars.”  With just five words God describes a work that scientists are still trying to figure out.

It is all too amazing.

Small and insignificant?  It’s a sense of our place in the universe and yet we seem to claim we know so much.  Around us are men who claim to know how it all began, where it came from, and yet they really know so little.  In the vastness of all that is around us it is fascinating to me that some claim knowledge they cannot possibly have.  

Anything but small and insignificant.  That’s how I feel when I read these simple words,

” For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

In this short passage, I realize the God who made the heavens sees and loves me.  Even if no one else ever sees me… God does and He loves me and He loves you.

Small?  Insignificant? 

In God’s eyes… never.

Live Like That

Sometimes I think
What will people say of me
When I’m only just a memory
When I’m home where my soul belongs

Was I love
When no one else would show up
Was I Jesus to the least of us
Was my worship more than just a song

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

Am I proof
That You are who you say You are
That grace can really change a heart
Do I live like Your love is true

People pass
And even if they don’t know my name
Is there evidence that I’ve been changed
When they see me, do they see You

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

I want to show the world the love You gave for me
I’m longing for the world to know the glory of the King

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

Band-Aid Christianity

One of our biggest problems is that we put “band-aids” on our problems, struggles, and issues.   Instead of dealing with the root problem in our life, all too often we just deal with the wound and not fix what caused the hurt / problem in the first place.   Most people believe a band-aid is all that’s needed to fix the problem. I might like a plain one, but you want a pretty flower band-aid.  We each choose the band-aid that we think works best for us. A person we know consistently makes us angry, so our band-aid solution is to now avoid them.  We’ve been gossiping a lot lately, so we decide to start hanging out with new people.  Conflict is reigning in our marriage and we quickly resort to better communicative methods to patch up the messiness.  In these situations, there may be a desire for change, but we all know our typical, unhealthy behaviors will continue to reappear in due time.  Change isn’t that easy.

You can see these types of solutions are like New Year’s resolutions.  We all say that we going to spend more time with family and friends.  We say… I’m going to work out 5 days a week.  I’m going to quit smoking.  I’m going to begin volunteering.  We reach for solutions or resolutions that have no foundation.  At times (especially initially), we may have the strength to muster up enough resolve to head to the gym and work out or drive to the local homeless shelter and volunteer.  But don’t these types of things wane over time?  Don’t the band-aid solutions/resolutions to our lives fade when life gets hectic and complicated?

All around us we have the idea that a band-aid can solve my problem, that it’s not as bad as it really is. Any old band-aid will heal the wound, but it’s not true. The wound is much worse than we believe. The problem much more serious.

What we need so desperately is not a band-aid, but a surgeon. We need someone to remove the problem, the bullet that has caused the wound. We only see the open wound and dress it with a band-aid and wait for it to heal, but there’s something deeper that must be taken care of.

We do this in Christianity with Christian-solutions.  I’m going to pray more this year (Then we forget, or life gets busy).  I’m going to read my whole Bible this year (we get to Exodus and it’s already June).  I’m really going to work on controlling my anger this year ( soon we’re barking at our spouse because she left the milk out again).  Stuff like this happens all the time.  Our band-aid solutions, whether they be secular or Christian, tend to get swatted down like a Dwight Howard blocked shot.  We throw these efforts up in the air thinking they will bring us newfound life and growth, but then disappointment sets in as the efforts come up well-short.  Moreover, we’re embarrassed — because often times we only make it a few days (even hours) before these solutions are dashed.

The curious thing about our Christian band-aids is that God doesn’t like them.  He doesn’t sit up in heaven and applause when he sees us laboring towards solutions that have no root.  It’s not that he doesn’t like structured discipline and resolve, but He simply knows that individual efforts aren’t going to last.  He knows that only His grace can cover and transform the struggles, insecurities, and failures that we carry.

Jesus reveals his displeasure towards such band-aid solutions in Matthew 23:25-26:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”

Jesus was not in favor of those who covered themselves beautifully on the outside while their hearts remained a mess.  He sees right through that.  And our band-aid solutions to life typically decorate us on the outside in ways that only feebly change us on the inside, if they even change us at all.

 True change begins in the heart and not through altering behavior or changing circumstances.  Changing behavior or relying on new solutions may help for a period of time, but they don’t dig roots.  God changes us not just by teaching us to do different things, but by recapturing our hearts to serve Him alone.

Lasting change starts and ends with the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.  His death and resurrection opened up the door for true change.  Faith in Him creates the avenue for His lasting work to happen.  Otherwise, we will just buffer along searching for fixes that only end up falling off like a band-aid at a water park.

I’ve never been a big New Year’s resolution setter.  In fact, I can’t recall any resolution that I have ever was successful in keeping.   But I do know that I’ve often settled for band-aid Christianity, where I try to get near God by fulfilling the good, Christian-flavored duties.  I’ve believed that doing these things and developing a commendable spiritual performance is what God wants.  In that, resting in His grace becomes more of an afterthought.

I’m now realizing more and more that God is looking at me.   My desperate attempts to keep putting on band-aids don’t last, and I need His grace to bring about legitimate change.  God’s grace is what truly enables us to redeem our lifestyles in renewed ways.  It covers fully, not temporarily.  It cleanses entirely, rather than just stopping the chaos.  And it instills life and a new identity, which our hearts need.

We are in a world that tries to dress bullet holes with band-aids. It’s not enough. We have a deeper problem. It’s the bullet that has cut into each one of us, it’s called sin.  No band-aid will remedy that problem.   It is only when we trust completely in Jesus Christ that we can find the source of healing our problems.  Jesus wants to remove all of our band-aids and He wants to be our source for true healing.

 

Close Calls and Difficult Days

As I watched the following video,  I wondered how many times have I been this close to losing my own life and didn’t realize it?   How often has God had to protect me from certain death and I was oblivious to the situation?

I can name a few situations in my life when there was no question that God clearly intervened and kept me from serious injury or even death.  One of my most memorable experiences was when I was a building a bonfire for the students during Spirit Week when I was teaching and coaching years ago.   After piling up the wood, I lit the pile and proceeded to watch it burn.   It had rained the previous day and some of the wood on the bottom of the pile was still damp and would not burn and the fire went out.  So, not using any common sense, I proceeded to get a gas can and dump some gas on the bottom to get the fire going again.   I actually did that and started the fire without incident. 

The problem was that when I stepped back to see how well the fire going I saw that I had set the gas can down too close to the fire and now fire was racing over towards the can.  Without thinking, I ran towards the can and grabbed the handle and was moving it away from the fire.  The can was on fire and I was running with it in my hands.  It was full of gas.  As a matter of fact, I only used a small amount to start the fire and now I was carrying a bomb ready to explode. 

This is where God intervened. 

The cap was off the gas can and gasoline was spilling all over me and over the can as I was racing away from the fire.  I could feel the heat from the flames that surrounded  the can and I swear I could feel the fire on my legs and arms.  Fire was trailing me as I spilled gas on the ground behind me.  You could see the path that I was running because you could see those flames chasing after me.  Then as quickly as I had picked up the can and started running I stopped and set the can down.  The fire went out.  I was covered in gasoline and the fire simply went out.  To this very day, I am amazed that  I was not covered with burns and that the can did not continue to burn.  Not one hair on my body was singed.  Without question…it was the hand of God.

Most of us could probably share stories just like this one about how God protected us in some bad situations.  I am so thankful for His protection in times like that. 

However, I am talking about times when I am oblivious to His protective hand.  How many times have we left our house only to get in the car and realize that we left something on the table and had to go back in.  As irritating as that was , we realize that had we not been delayed we could have been in the serious car accident that took place just moments before at the intersection we had to go through.  

God not only protects us from the crisis when we are in the midst of the storm, but He also protects us from future danger and crisis.  It is His protective hand that controls what happens and I am thankful that He has chosen to protect me more than my fair share.

Now I know that God sometimes allows us to go through hard times and difficult days.  Times when we don’t understand why God would allow us to go through such misery.  The only answer  I can give is that God is in control and that there are things that happen that we may not understand why until we are with Him in heaven.  Everything happens for a reason.  There are even times when He chooses to call someone home to be with Him in heaven.  It is indeed appointed unto man that he is to die.  God is the only one that knows when that is.   I have to admit that there are times when I simply cannot reason or understand why certain things happen to people.  Again… God is in control and we have to learn to trust Him.

In the book of Psalms,  David talks often about how God is a mighty fortress for him, a protection in difficult times.  I think God does that for us as well.   As I have explained,  I know from my own life that God has often protected me when I was unaware of the threat.  He protects you as well.

God is a wonderful fortress for those who trust Him.  

A safe place to rest during difficult days and close calls.

In Case You Missed It

This past weekend was the Christian celebration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is what we call Easter.  In the midst of the chocolate and the bunnies, jelly beans  and the Cadbury eggs, I wanted to remind everyone that the reason for the celebration was much more than an egg hunt and a family get together. 

I am afraid that you missed it and in case you did I wanted to give you a chance to be reminded of the reality of the resurrection of Christ.   It’s a celebration of so much more than we can even explain or think about in a Sunday afternoon.  The bottom line is that it’s about God’s love for us.   Because He loved us He came, became one of us, died for our sins, and then rose to give us His life and hope for the future.   It was all because of His love that the events of the last weekend happened more than 2,000 years ago.

The greatest truth of Easter is that God loves you.  In fact, His love is the reason for the Christian faith.   I can’t think of another religion on the planet that declares, as the Christian faith does, that our God loves us and that’s why Jesus became a man and died just for us.  

It’s an amazing story all based on love.  

No other faith has such a reason for its existence.  

No other religion has a God passionately in love with His creation as the God of the Bible.

Personally, this message is my greatest solace.   It’s core to my faith.   It defines who I am.

There is a simple verse that every Christian knows, but most miss the heart behind God’s actions….

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

It was love that put this whole Jesus story into action and it was a love eternally working in past history. That’s the entire message of the Bible – God loves us.   It’s the golden thread woven throughout the Bible. And it’s what keeps drawing me closer to Him.   As I grow closer to God I see him not as a judge, a fearsome God waiting to punish me, but I see a loving Father waiting to embrace me…..with all my messy life included.

God loves me.  He loves you. 

In case you missed it…that’s the message of Easter.

Good Friday… A Final Solution for Mankind

On Good Friday, we remember the most horrible and wonderful day in human history. It stands alone as a day that tells us God loves us, understands our pain, and has provided a solution for our sins.

In one day more than 2,000 years ago God declared, through what we all saw at the time as a terrible failure, that He loved us and had provided the final solution for sin.  I have heard many call the Christian faith a bloody religion.  It is.  But what they don’t realize is that through the sacrifice of one man (Jesus Christ) the forgiveness of sin and restoration of all things has been accomplished once for all.

I am one believer who has said yes to this free gift of love and forgiveness.   I am one who understands how wonderful this horrible day was.

In the death of Jesus Christ eternal life was provided for everyone.  I am a grateful recipient of this eternal life.  It is offered to anyone who trusts Christ and accepts Him into their life.   Because of His sacrifice, my sins are forgiven, I have new life, I have a relationship with God, I am now His son.  I’ve been bought back and given life rather than death.   Eternally I will have the joy of saying thank you to the God who loved me so much.

It seems wrong to celebrate such a horrible day as Good Friday, but in that terrible sacrifice the final solution was provided for all of mankind.  I will always be thankful for His sacrifice and in that sacrifice I will now and forever rejoice.