He Is Freaking Awesome!

I have not written anything for a couple of days mainly because I really have not had anything worthwhile to write. Today I felt as though I could share some reflections that have been running through my head.

The past couple Wednesday nights, I have been going to The Well to discuss theology and faith with a couple of people. The topic of discussion stemmed from a book, ‘Simply Christian’ by N.T. Wright. One of the guys who attend said something that has peaked my interest. He said, “I do not want to follow Jesus solely on the basis of my salvation. I want to follow Jesus because He is freaking awesome.”

Why are we motivated to follow Christ? Is it solely because He died and rose again for us, promising a place where we will live for eternity? Is it because His power is displayed throughout the Bible in miraculous ways, unlike anyone else in history? Is it because all the other options of faith/belief do not measure to the greatness of Jesus and therefore (logically) He is a better choice? Or is it because I passionately desire a relationship with Him everyday?

I am not trying to downplay any of the above because I truly believe they are without fault. They are true statements. Heaven, I am sure, is going to be an amazing place. As I have written in a previous post, I am sure heaven will be greater and more grand than anything you or I could even consider. His miracles and power is definitely ridiculous. I cannot even imagine speaking to a demon and telling it to go into a herd of pigs – it happens. How about the multiplication of bread and fish that feeds 5,000 men (not counting the women and children that were most likely present). And, let’s just be honest and say that out of all the other choices we have to consider (faith-wise), they all fall in comparison to Jesus. That might sound cocky or conceded to some but I have no reservations in saying it. What other god chooses a bunch of sinful people to represent Him on earth? What other god calls a bunch of sinful people His children and works through us to accomplish Him will? When the scorecards are in, Jesus takes the cup – with no competition.

That’s all well and good but do we know Him? Do we know Jesus? Have we met with Him more than 30 seconds before a meal? If we were in the same room with Him, would He know us by name? Would He run up to us and embrace us as His own or would He look at us with an unfamiliar look (you know the look). If He called us on the phone, would we recognize His voice or would we have to look at the caller ID? Do our relationships with God and our interaction with Him take precedence and priority over anything and everything else?

When I consider my relationship with God, I have to be honest and say that I have not arrived. There are days I know God would recognize me and other days (more often than I would like) where He would not. Sometimes God is as close as my next breath and others where He is as foreign as hieroglyphics. We need to continually examine our relationship with Jesus. Like a car that needs its oil changed every 3,000 miles, so our life needs to be regularly changed and transformed to be more like Jesus. Perhaps if we stepped up to the plate and considered our relationship with Jesus more often than we most likely do, we could be a better witness to others who do not know the love of Christ or what Christ has done for them.

So that is the challenge for us. We need to consistently ask ourselves what our motivation is in respects to following Jesus. We need to consistently ask God to be in relationship with us solely because He is freaking awesome. When we live in this manner, we can serve others humbly and influence others through our testimony as believers in Jesus Christ. God bless.

Doing Church: 3 John

Today we continued our study on the ‘One Chapter Wonders.’ Before I begin my analysis on this book, I must say again how much we take for granted these books that are only a few verses. What we can learn about ourselves, and the events of the early Church are absolutely amazing. They should be regarded just as important as any other book within the Word of God. With that, we begin our study.

What exactly is the purpose of the book of 3 John? Todd taught this week and shared his thoughts on the significance of John’s writing. In short, he surmised that the book fo 3 John was written as a letter of recommendation concerning Demetrius from John to Gauis.

It is important to maintain a good testimony with others. I believe good testimonies are a true miss in the Church. There are many people who live like our brother, Diotrephes. Diotrephes was a leader in the Church who had gotten off track. He always looked to put himself first and had no respect for others who were in authority. When we put ourselves above the ministry and the calling that God has for us as believer in Christ, we lose our focus.

John recognizes the ministry of Gauis. Gauis was a leader in the Church who let go of some personal comforts to help others. He opened up his home and his personal life to missionaries who were in need of a place to lay their head and a hot meal. Gauis understood the story he was called to live. I always find it interesting that of all the things God remembers, He remembers the little things people do for others. As long as God tarries, there will be those of us who will read the book of 3 John and hear about our brother, Gauis and his ministry for the Lord. I think we need to continually take note that God takes note of things we do for our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as those who are our neighbors and strangers we meet on our journey.

I wonder if I were to go to another country or to another state, what someone would write about me. What would they put in a letter with their name signed at the bottom? Would they send a letter of recommendation to be received by the body of Christ or would they be so concerned about how I am living my story that it literally upsets them to think about it.

Our challenge is to live the story we are called to live. Todd left it this way: Am I living the right story? I believe we all need to be asking ourselves this all-important question. Perhaps if we did, we would be confronted with the ugliness we hold inside of us towards others and deal with ourselves in the right manner before God and others. Perhaps we will be the body of Christ after all.

Friday Night Study: Community (Task and Purpose)

Well we met again at Michaelle’s house for our Friday night study. We continued with the issue of community. What does it really look like? Can we really live out community in the context of our environment? I think sometimes we have lost what it means to live in real community with others. We have become so individualized in almost every aspect of life we push aside the very things we need most – others. When we read the story of the early Church, people shared everything in common. No one suffered to lack of need. There was no desire for personal gain or elitism or capitalistic corporate endeavors. We agreed that community is more than just a gathering of people unified less than one task or purpose but was more broad than we had expected. The foundation of community though is people. In a world where we have self-checkouts at the store and the creation of magazines like ‘Self,’ it is no wonder why we have become so individualistic.

We are called the body of Christ and yet I wonder if we truly desire to be apart of something greater than ourselves. Is it possible that we have the analogy all wrong? Perhaps we should be called, ‘the ear of Christ’ or ‘the eye of Christ.’ How ridiculous does that sound? As 1 Corinthians says, ‘If all were an eye, how would the body hear?’ No. We are called to be the body of Christ. It is emulated through out the Bible and imitated through out the life of Jesus, Himself. Perhaps that is a wake up call to those of us who like our ‘personal space.’ If community was so important to the believers of God during the events of the Bible, perhaps the necessity of community is even more important that we even thought. Just a few thoughts.

Lessons From Jewish Tradition: Marriage

In the Jewish tradition, the engagement process was very different than we are accustomed to in our culture. Fathers would get together and agree that a daughter would marry their son, sometimes before they were even old enough to walk. And, so it was that the children would grow up and play together as any young child would. When the daughter reached the right age of marriage, the families would get together and announce their decisions (again – sometimes arranged years in advance). This was called a ‘betrothal’ of the groom and his bride (Mary and Joseph went through this process).The father would announce his decision and a cup of wine would be given first to the groom and then to the bride to drink. This was the symbol of agreement both the bride and groom would do in the presence of the family. If the bride to be did not drink the cup given to her from her future hubby, the engagement process could not continue.

Supposing in most circumstances the bride did drink the cup given to her, the bride’s father would say something to the effect of, “You are both betrothed and are married by this agreement. You are married in all ways except ways that would lead to the baring of children.” The father and his new son would embrace and then the son would say something to the effect of, “I will go and build a house for you and I. When I have be given my father’s approval, I will come and get you and we will be married in all ways.” She would consent to his building a house and the preparations would begin.

The son’s father played an important role in all of this. He would watch over the son’s building of the house so that it would be secure and safe for a new family. He would evaluate the son’s work until the work was complete. When the father saw that the son’s work was complete, he would say something to the effect of, “Your house is built and your work is done. You may now go and get your bride.”

What would the bride be doing during this time? She would be learning the cooking and the cleaning and how to raise a family. She would also light a lamp each night and place it on her window in expectation of her husband arriving to receive her into his house. When the son would arrive to the woman’s house, he would see the lamp lit from her window and know she had been waiting for him.

The groom and bride would then be married publicly before the community. After the ceremony, the bride and groom would enter their new house and ‘know one another.’ This had to be done in order to ‘seal the deal.’ When all had been accomplished, both the bride and her groom would exit the house and show her virginity sheet she had laid out on the bed to the town. Seeing this, they would rejoice the festivities would begin (sometimes lasting up to 7 days!)

I just want to draw out a couple of points I have wrestled with through my study of a Jewish wedding:

1. We are the brides of Christ and He is our Bridegroom. He said in His Word that He had to leave in order to prepare a place for us. And, if He goes, He will come back for us so we will be with Him for eternity. I never quite understood the importance of that passage until I learned about Jewish weddings. This was Jesus’ betrothal speech to His bride.

2. Jesus, being the bridegroom, cannot come to receive us unto Himself until He has been given His Father’s approval. In this expectancy we, as the brides of Christ, must light a lamp and place it at the windows of our home every night. This shows that we are expectantly waiting for Him to come and to receive us as His bride. I have to be honest and say I have not done this nearly enough in my own life. I need to be more expectant of Christ’s return for me. I am sure I am not alone in this.

3. As we come into the presence of God, the blood of Jesus will be upon us. When the Father looks at us, He will see the blood of His son and announce that we are His. If the blood of Jesus is not see upon us, we will not be received as Christ’s. The blood is important because it represents the covenant of Jesus’ death and resurrection and our acceptance of His sacrificial act for us. His blood is what makes us visually pure (a virgin) to the Father’s eyes.

4. When all is said and done, we are going to party. The marriage supper of Jesus and us is going to be amazing. It will last for eternity (not just 7 days).

5. I left one thought out until the end of this post. The bride must drink the cup to ceremonially agree that she will become one with the bridegroom. So often there are discussions as to predestination and free will. I will answer this question in this way: The Father chose us before we were born. It was a ‘prearranged marriage’ between His Son and us. The bride still needed to drink the cup given to her from the bridegroom though. She had to agree that it was of her best interest to do so. She needed to agree that all other options for her were pointless. She had to do it though in her time. I look at the issue of predestination and free will in that light.

So what is the challenge? If you are ‘betrothed’ to the bridegroom, symbolically light a lamp and place it at the window of your heart each night until He returns to receive us as His own. If you have been given the cup to drink, take it and know that all other choices fail in comparison to the bridegroom’s love for us. God bless.

The Way I See It # 230

When I posted my first response to ‘The Way I See It # 247,’ I was not sure how it was going to be received by my virtual audience. Looking at my blog stats, I noticed that it has surpassed almost any other post I have written since this site’s creation almost a month ago. For that reason, I thought I would look at another writing found on the backside of a Starbucks cup and respond to its statement.

Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can’t wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but Heaven has to step it up a bit. They’re basically getting by because they only have to be better than Hell. – Joel Stein

Has anyone ever asked you if you believe in heaven? Has anyone ever asked you what you thought heaven will be like? Have you ever responded? And if you did respond, how was your response received? I have been asked several times by those I have met, “What will heaven be like?” In the same manner in which we think we know God, we think we know what heaven will be like. Without even considering our thoughts, we return their question with an answer.

Let me share just a few things I hope you will agree that heaven will not be like in order to wipe away the myth of what it will be like.

1. Heaven is not overrated.
2. It will not be boring.
3. We will not be floating on puffy clouds playing golden harps in diapers.
4. It has no relation to a hotel by any means.
5. It is not a place that is imagined to keep people ‘good.’
6. It takes a lot more than being good in order to be there.

How can any place where God dwells be overrated or boring? How can any place where there is no murder, no rape, no molestation of young children, no hurt, no pain, no more racism, no more lust, and no more sin be overrated? It is the very thing we long to see in our lifetime here on earth. There are poets, authors, and activists who have written about a place where there is no more war, no more hate, no more destruction, and no much poverty. Heaven is a place where all of the above are true.

Heaven will also not be boring. The reason is because there will be no time in heaven. To spend eternity in heaven (which we cannot even fathom because our ability to calculate eternity is impossible) will be an amazing experience. What will we do in heaven? I am not 100 percent sure about everything we will do but the Bible does say that we will worship God. That might sound boring to you as you read this but it will not be like the dead churches you have been to before. This will be the ultimate worship experience that will be greater than all of your thoughts and perceptions of what worship really is. Don’t knock it until you try it.

So the picture of little babies floating around the clouds and playing little golden harps is cute. The little babies dancing and bouncing off the clouds with their angel wings in flight might bring you to shed a tear or two but dry your little eyes because heaven will be nothing like that. That is a man-made perception of heaven that has been overdone by so many people. Let’s take that picture out of our heads and consider a new perspective on heaven – for heaven’s sake.

A hotel is a place where you go and visit. You need a special key to open your door and you need a lot of luggage to enjoy your visit. The little frig opens up some late night snacks and the TV guide is at your disposal. The king-size bed is made with several towels crafted into a design of a dog sits at its foot. The curtains are drawn and the bathroom is clean with those little shampoos and soap bars. Heaven is not a hotel room. You do not pay anything for a key, we will not have to worry about food, or showers, or sleep, and our stay will always be enjoyable. It is also not a place where you go for a week or two. Heaven is forever – amen for that.

I understand how people use scare tactics in order to lure people to heaven’s gate. “As long as I have my fire insurance I will be fine!” How sad. We should never allow ourselves to be tricked or scared to do something. We should be drawn to heaven because of who God is and how much God wants us to enjoy fellowship with Him. If the only reason you want to go to heaven is to save yourself from hell, I wonder if you have missed the point of going.

Finally, it takes a lot more than ‘good deeds’ to go to heaven. It is not based on good merit one enters heaven. It is first and foremost by the grace of God we have the ability to go there. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been given access to join in fellowship with God for eternity. Without that truth, we would not have that ability.

I do not know how amazing heaven will be to its fullest extent but I do know, from what the Bible tells me, that heaven will be a great place. We will be in the presence of God and worship Him for eternity.

The challenge is to see heaven as a place where you want to go because of who God is and what He has done for us. Not because hell does not interest you. We should desire to be in the presence of our Creator because He has paid the price of my sin on the cross and resurrected from the dead. That is why I want to go to heaven; that is why I believe God has made a place for me there. I hope you will agree that being in heaven is going to be the most amazing and mind-blowing experience we could ever have. I hope you will join us. God bless.

Taking Time to Notice Others

Well I am back at Starbucks. The music is a little more upbeat today. A mix between techno and R and B is ringing in my ear as I sit on a big stuffed chair drinking a chi latte once again. This is a beautiful day. So many people are out and about. For now though, my world is confined to this chair with a chi latte to my left and my laptop.

There is a man talking on his phone in Spanish. I am sure he doesn’t know that I can translate his words; he is nervous about asking out a girl. I am guessing that he is talking to a friend or someone. He keeps wiping his hands on his pants and shaking his head. I don’t mean to be nosy but I just heard him say he does not think things will work out. I wonder if they will. I believe her name is Anna or Anita. I am not sure cause he is too far away.

Another couple has just entered. A man has a birthmark on a large part of his face yet he smiles big. Another man and his wife sit next to him; perhaps they are family. They sit and discuss the week’s activities planned. Over a cup of coffee, and a marshmallow square, they laugh the time away.

Finally there is another person sitting along studying feverishly while slaving over her computer. It seems as though her stress level is great. I should probably lift her up in prayer; I do not even know her name.

This might seem like a meaningless post but I find an important fact in all of this. If I had never taken the time to stop and live, I would have not noticed these people sitting around me in Starbucks this evening. Each person would have been only a small glance of unknown faces and. There would have been no difference between a rock and these people in my mind; they would have had no life in my memory; they probably would not exist.

I do not mean to get philosophical about this but I find our ability to see people as individuals among us is a difficult task. We are so consumed with our own worries and stress, we put aside others who live and breathe. If we do not intentionally create an environment where we see people, how can we love others greater than ourselves? Perhaps this is a pointless post but I find reassurance in seeing the people around me. It helps me maintain a heart for others.

Jesus was one who noticed people wherever he went. He saw their hurt and pain and had compassion on them. If we never take the right measure to notice the people around us, how can we ever do likewise?

The challenge is simple today. Take time to notice the people around you. Take inventory on who they are and what they are doing. Are they studying for an exam? Are they nervous about asking out someone? Or are they just enjoying the company of a few good friends? The best place to do this is while sitting in the food court at the mall. Some many people consumed with themselves, there are so many people to see. We can do better at this. It only takes time. Time out of our own personal lives to notice others. It I exactly what we are called to do – we can be like Jesus. God bless.

Doing Church: Aberto Rivera (New Orleans)

Today we had Aberto Rivera share at The Well. He was a pastor who lost his church due to hurricane Katrina almost two years ago. It was during a mission trip to New Orleans, The Well met Aberto while moving wooden pews that were donated. Pastor Todd and Aberto hit it off well, allowing Todd to teach at his church (Aberto translating). It is with Aberto that The Well will be meeting with again this summer to do mission work in New Orleans.

Aberto shared about the people of New Orleans almost two years after their world was rocked by the storm. Before the storm, people were always willing to say hi and be relational with one another. Today, even still, New Orleans has changed. People no longer spend the time building relationships with one another yet people are hurting to be loved.

He said the greatest thing we could do is continue to pray for those who live in New Orleans – for relationships to build and lives to heal from all that has happened.

Using Ephesians 4:1-4 as his guide, Aberto shared we need to be doing what this verse speaks of:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—

Maybe if we lived in this way, we would reach those who are hurting with the love of Jesus. Perhaps we would see the hand of God at work both in our own lives and the lives of others. I really enjoyed Aberto’s visit to The Well (I got to speak a little Spanish with him as well – which was totally awesome). All in all, God has blessed us as the body of Christ. To do anything less than love others is a crime against our idenity in Christ. God bless.