Say “Yes” to the Relationship

My wife likes to watch TV shows that defy my ability to comprehend. One such show is “Say Yes to the Dress.” On this show, brides-to-be come to a very fancy salon and try on different bridal gowns. There is, of course, tons of drama, tears, fighting, name calling, hair pulling, and utter self-absorption. Great fun.

The other night I had the great fortune to witness an episode. Yay. In this particular episode the bride-to-be was a religious gal, and one member of her entourage was also a religious young lady. The thing about this episode that kept catching my attention was the fact that every time the bride would try on a dress, her friend would criticize it, saying it was too short, too tight, or showed too much cleavage. Her point of reference for these criticisms was the Bible. In other words, she would quote scripture to show how the dress was inappropriate for the bride. She quoted verses about sin, lust, sex, and so on and so forth, saying that the dress was in violation of some biblical rule or other.

For me, therein lies the problem. It was all about the rules. From what I have seen, a lot of people resist God, church, or religion in general for just this reason; the perception is that it’s nothing but rules that will impose on personal freedoms. In fact, my daughter, who has declared herself an atheist, once said to me that ,”The Bible is nothing but a big book of rules. Isn’t it full of, like, the Ten Commandments and stuff?” Like most people, she feels that she is in charge of her life, that she has everything under control, and any kind of religion is not only an imposition on her freedoms, but some kind of admission of weakness, of an inability to control her life.

I’m not sure that I completely understand how a person can complain about ten biblical rules while abiding by thousands of rules (laws) imposed on them by the country in which they reside. For example, one of the Ten Commandments is thou shall not kill. I’m pretty sure that murder is illegal, at least in the United States, as is theft. I guess adultery may not be illegal (not sure about that), but it sure is grounds for divorce. So that leaves what? Respect your father and mother. Do not covet. Keep the Sabbath holy. No other gods. No idols. No taking the name of the Lord in vain, and no bearing false witness. Wait a minute. I think that last one is illegal, too. At least in court. So what you’re really giving up is your freedom to be rude, disrespectful, unholy, an idol worshiper, and trying to keep up with the Jones’.

On the flip side, we have no problem with there being something like 15 laws that we are supposed to abide by every time we get into our car, before we even turn it on. How many laws regulate us when we want to cross the street? How many laws governing the purchase of a home? Or sending a child to public school? Or paying our taxes? I just read that as of 2012, there are 73, 608 pages in the federal tax code. How many in each state?

Yet we accept these laws (for the most part) as a necessary part of our lives. Just imagine the pandemonium that would ensue if there were no laws, we might say to each other. There has to be some kind of regulation in our lives to protect us from ourselves. Why then do we reject what we perceive as God’s laws, which can be seen as being by design a means to make our lives better, not as restrictive?

How about this; don’t worry about the rules. I’m not talking about human laws, by all means please don’t go breaking the law. I’m talking about the “rules” in the Bible. If you read the Bible, what you will find is that the focus is on relationships. God know that we can’t keep rules. He knows that when left to our own devices we will often choose things that just aren’t in our own best interests. That’s why He sent His son; to pay the cost of all the rules-breaking for us. Our slate can be wiped clean. Does this mean we have a free pass to do whatever we want? Of course not. But what it does mean is that we can move past the rules and focus on our relationships with God, with Jesus, and with each other, which is what He wants. After all, He is our Father, and what loving father would choose disciplining and punishing his children over affectionate bonding?

What does this really mean to us in a practical sense? Imagine just not having a desire to “break the rules.” Let’s say you’re a married man who really loves his wife, but before you got married you were a player, a real ladies’ man. Now you’ve met the love of your life, and even though you see gorgeous women around here and there, you simply don’t have a desire to pursue them like you once did. Maybe you think of just your wife, or maybe you think of your children, and how important they are to you, and having a temporary bit of pleasure simply isn’t worth losing the blessings you have. Have you changed? You bet! But what caused that change? Was it just you, or did the presence of the incredible woman you’re married to have an influence on you?

It works the same way with God, I believe, although on an even greater scale. The more time we spend with Him, the more His being influences us. You could say (in fact the Bible does say) that our nature is replaced with His, and since His nature is pure, the more of Him there is in us, the less impure, or self-destructive we become, and none of this is based on rules. Everything that God does is because of His love for us. His love for us is unconditional, all we need do is to seek Him out.

And when you’re tired of living by the rules of culture, chasing money, sex, power, or whatever it is that you pursue and never get enough of, there’s someone waiting for you, no matter who you are or what you’ve done, with a patient, caring love that can truly set you free.

God bless.

Remind Me

When I lose my way,
And I forget my name,
Remind me who I am.
In the mirror all I see,
Is who I don’t wanna be,
Remind me who I am.
In the loneliest places,
When I can’t remember what grace is.

Tell me once again who I am to You,
Who I am to You.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to You,
That I belong to You.
To You.

When my heart is like a stone,
And I’m running far from home,
Remind me who I am.
When I can’t receive Your love,
Afraid I’ll never be enough,
Remind me who I am.
If I’m Your beloved,
Can You help me believe it.

Tell me once again who I am to You,
Who I am to You, whoa.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to You.
That I belong to You.
To You.

I’m the one you love,
I’m the one you love,
That will be enough,
I’m the one you love.

Tell me once again who I am to You.
Who I am to You.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to You,
That I belong to You, oh.

Tell me once again who I am to You.
Who I am to You.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to You,
That I belong to You.
To You.

-Jason Gray

“Remind Me Who I Am”

Be Like an Atheist

Huh? What’s that title all about? I was thinking a few days ago after the men’s group meeting that I attended that it seems that people often doubt their faith. I have to be honest and include myself in that category. Being a believer is difficult at times, and we can sometimes doubt our own faith when things get hard. Maybe I don’t pray enough. Maybe I don’t believe strongly enough. After all, the Bible says that if your faith is as big as a mustard seed, you can move mountains. Moved any mountains lately?

It sort of dawned on me that I never hear atheists or other non-believers say, “My life is so tough right now. I guess God really does exist after all.” Nope, when things get tough, atheists keep on believing in their beliefs. Their faith in themselves doesn’t seem to waver to the point that they suddenly turn into believers. How much better must it be then, to know that there is a God that we can turn to to help us through those difficult times? And why would we ever doubt our faith, or our God?

Life is one big test. I believe that God designed the world in such a way that we would be tested to the utmost of our abilities, and then past them. Why would He do such a thing? Is He trying to break us? Just the opposite. If you want big muscles, what do you do? Pump iron, a lot. Sometimes it can even be painful. But if you practice self-discipline in training, diet, and rest, you will grow. When life is like a barbell pushing down on us, God wants us to turn to Him. We must discipline ourselves to practice prayer, read scripture, attend church, and spread the gospel, and we will only be made stronger through Him.

When you feel sometimes like your faith is shaky, just remember that you have to have faith in the first place to be able to feel its absence. I think that the fact we sometimes doubt our faith only proves that it exists, that it hasn’t disappeared. Accept the challenges that life provides, secure in the knowledge that God never leaves us, never stops loving us, and always wants what is best for us, even when we doubt Him, don’t believe in Him, and can’t feel Him. Practice trusting Him, and learn to be like an atheist, with unwavering faith in what you believe in. Except different.

 

But Not in a Pervy Way

Being a Christian is hard sometimes…for some people. For others, like myself, it’s hard all the time. It’s not that I don’t believe in God, because I do. Nor do I have a problem letting people know about my faith. I just find it difficult to walk the path, if you know what I mean. For instance, I know that I should pray every day, and read scripture every day, and try to live my life as Christ lived His, but I very often find myself “too busy” or “too tired” or some other “too” to do what I should. I think of this as something of a problem since I’m pretty sure that God wants us to do these things. So, what to do?

I was reading a post on another blog a few days ago, authored by Cristian Mihai, who is a darn good writer, and has a very interesting blog. You can find it here:      http://cristianmihai.net/   Anyway, in one of his posts he spoke (or wrote, I guess) about passion. He made some very true statements that without passion for something it was difficult to be successful at it. It got me thinking, why would being a Christian be any different? If you have a passion for God, for the Word, well then maybe it would be much easier to walk that path. We talk about loving God all the time, and the love He has for us, but we never really talk about passion. If you’re married, you’ll know that just loving someone isn’t enough to make a relationship work. There has to be a spark, a lose yourself kind of feeling drawing you to that person to keep that relationship alive.

Well, that sounds great, but how do we get passionate about something? For me personally, there is always the initial interest that draws me to something, but what keeps me going is knowledge and practice. Take football for instance. I used to watch football (American style) with a mixture of bewilderment and stupefication. Why do those guys just keep running into each other over an over? The only time the ball moves is when they pass it, so why don’t they just always do that? It looked pretty stupid to me, to be honest. But as I got older I started to learn how the game worked, and then I began to appreciate the skill and strategy involved, and then it got interesting. Really interesting. I daresay it got fun to watch games. Except that I live in Arizona and the Cardinals just aren’t any good. That’s not the point, though. The point is that knowledge changed my perception, and turned something boring into something enjoyable.

I love art. Creating it is the most enjoyable thing on the planet for me. But it’s really only gotten that way as I’ve practiced it. The better I get at it, the more enjoyable it becomes, which in turn makes it easier to practice it more, and so on and so forth.

I’m no genius, but I think I may be on to something. It seems to me that I need to practice and learn, and the passion will develop, and having passion for God seems to me can only lead to good things. So go and try it, and let me know what you think.

 

Preach It!!

How do you tell people about the good news of Christ? It can be difficult to find the way, the time, and even the words to spread the gospel. Many people have a fear of public speaking that seems to kick in when it comes to doing this. Others feel they don’t have enough spiritual or biblical knowledge. Still others don’t feel prepared to face criticism or even outright hostility. So how do fulfill our God-given responsibility?

How about this; unless you’re a preacher, don’t preach.

For all the married men out there, consider this; how many times has your wife approached you with some complaint or gripe or some other distress, and you, being a loving and caring husband, made the mistake of telling her how she could resolve her situation, only to suddenly and inexplicably find yourself the target of her wrath? You know what I’m talking about. Your wife complains about something, and you tell her how to fix it, then she gets mad at you for…wait for it…not listening.

Maybe it might be a good idea to treat the world like a wife. Instead of attempting to tell people how they can fix their lives, listen instead. If you let people talk, they’ll tell you what they need. You will hear about their hurts, habits, and hang ups, their needs and their wants, and anything else they might have going on.

If you listen and take an actual interest in what people are telling you,  I believe that the opportunity to tell people about Jesus and all He can do for them, all He has done for them, will present itself, and that the Holy Spirit will speak through you. After all, we are the instruments that God uses to fulfill His purpose. It shouldn’t be about what we think we should say or do, but what God wants us to do, and in His wisdom, mercy, and grace, He will use us to reach others.

So listen, don’t preach. Take the time to hear what people have to say instead of trying to force the situation. God will take care of the rest.

Hands

Last Sunday the sermon at church was about hands – Jesus’ hands to be specific. We saw how Jesus had human hands, the hands of an ordinary man, the hands of a carpenter, yet his hands were also compassionate and without sin. His hands were also scarred from his crucifixion on the cross. He showed his hands after he was resurrected to prove who he was, and Thomas touched Jesus with his hands to remove his doubt. And best of all, to me anyway, is that Jesus’ hands are open and waiting for us.

How does this fit into our series on heaven? It fits in because of two things; first Colton talks about how when he went to heaven he saw that Jesus had “markers” on his hands, and secondly, Jesus’ hands are open and waiting for us. I have no doubt that when we go to heaven we will see the scars that Jesus bears for us, and I wonder about what I might say. Somehow “thank you” just doesn’t seem like enough.

One other thing really caught my attention; a video. It was very simple, just a slideshow format with pictures of hands and things they have done. “This hand looks for pornography,” for instance. Or “This hand hit someone.” Another was “This hand did something unspeakable.” But the one that really caught my eye was the one that said “This hand does nothing.” How can that be bad? Got me thinking.

When I first started going to church I got really caught up in thinking about sin. Not committing sin, just trying to understand it, what it was, why we can’t get away from it, things like that. It didn’t take long to come to the seven deadly sins. One of those, of course, is SLOTH. I had always thought of sloth as just being lazy, and for the most part, every website I visited confirmed that was indeed what it was. Except for one. This particular site said that sloth was actually not using your God-given gifts. It said that everyone is given some kind of talent or ability from God, a gift that they can use to glorify Him. Just as the bird glorifies God by flying and doing bird things, we can glorify God by using our talents or abilities for Him. Maybe it’s athletic talent, or skill at public speaking, or a great scientific mind. How can someone glorify God with their talents? My guess is that we glorify God by using the abilities He gave us, thanking Him genuinely for them, and sharing them with others. One thing that I have learned about God is that He always wants us to think of others, not of ourselves.

My current job is as a pizza delivery driver. It’s not even a little bit awesome. What might my ability be? I have artistic talent. Yep. I can draw and paint and I’m learning how to photograph things. I don’t like being a driver, but I’d sure like to be a professional artist/photographer.

God gives us gifts; it’s our responsibility to use them. And if we do, maybe then we can go to heaven and show Jesus that we appreciate all he did for us by using those gifts, our “hands” so to speak, to reach out to others as he reaches out for us.

Heaven is for Real

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in quite awhile. I am going to try and be more consistent from now on.

Last week’s Bible study was a continuation of our current series at church where we have been talking about heaven; what it is, where it is, who gets in, and who doesn’t. It’s been very interesting. Some of the discussion during the sermons has come from a book titled “Heaven is for Real.” This book tells the story of a boy named Colton, who died on the operating table at the age of four, then came back to life. After his incredible recovery, he detailed to his parents his story of going to heaven, who he saw there, how he got there, what it was like, and things told to him by people who were there.

During last week’s bible study some interesting things about Colton’s story came up. For instance, he says that everyone there has wings except Jesus. He also talks about how nobody seems to age past 30 or so years old, how he saw the scars on Jesus’ hands, and how he met his stillborn sister that his parents had never told him about. The fact that these things were being told by a four year old makes them hard to disbelieve.

The discussion at Bible study also went to talking about other faiths and their ideas of heaven; from different levels of heaven that you have to earn your way into, to being rewarded with riches, power, or virgins. I found it interesting that so many ideas of heaven seem to be nothing more than extensions of what people wish for here on Earth now. Money, power, sex, even a class system where some people are better than others. I may not know much, but one thing I have learned over the last two years of trying to build a relationship with God is that our ideas of how things should be very rarely coincide with God’s reality.

I personally don’t like the idea of streets paved with gold, or “better” people going to a higher heaven, and who in their right mind would want to have multiple wives? One is enough for me. My idea of heaven is pretty much the way it’s described by Colton. I love the thought of being close to God all the time, and Jesus, too. I long for the day when there is no sin, and I don’t have to deal with personal failures, and I know that I am pleasing my heavenly Father.

What exactly is heaven like? I don’t know, and you know what? I don’t really care. I figure that I will find out when I get there, and I trust that it will be good because God says so, so why worry about it now? The only thing I want to know is what I have to do to make it there.

What do you think about heaven?