I’m Learning to Enjoy What I Have

Why is it so hard to be thankful for  the things we already have? I was challenged with that thought today. I cannot even name all the ways I have been blessed throughout my life. The very fact that I am alive today is a testimony of how much I have been blessed. Yet, it seems like I am always willing to by-pass what I have for the things I don’t. I don’t know why it seems to happen more often than I would like.

I am sure I am not the only person who suffers in this fashion. I see it happen when my little nephew plays with his toys. There could be a room full of toys in a small area. When I sit next to him and pick up a toy he isn’t even playing with, he looks at me, sees the toy I am playing with, notices that I am enjoying the toy, and puts the toy he was playing with on the floor, and grabs the toy I was playing with out of my hand.

The only reason he wanted to play with the toy I was playing with is due to the same thing I struggle with all the time: I continually want things I currently do not possess. Here are a couple of examples from my own life that I struggle with:

I have a nice car that gets great gas mileage. Every time I drive down the road though, there always seems to be a nicer car or a more expensive car that I instinctively say, “I would love that!” At times, it is absolutely ridiculous. I also have a few great friends that speak into my life and challenge me to live my walk with Christ well. When people end up getting married or start new relationships with the opposite sex, I seem to forget how blessed I am with what I have and complain that I am not in a relationship with someone. I would rather whine and get upset – or even worse, I end up being jealous of my friends. Having those few friends that know you well is important. I couldn’t make it to where I am right now if I didn’t have them a part of my life. Me being jealous of them or getting upset that I am not in a relationship with someone is no different than my little nephew taking a toy out of my hand when he already has a perfectly good toy in his.

It is not wrong to want things. It is also not wrong to want nice things. Having things is not the problem either. The problem is when we take for granted the things we possess and desire things that other people have. That is called coveting. It is wrong to covet your neighbor’s stuff. Why? When we do that, we oftentimes forget what God has given us and end up complaining.

I think this year; I need to ask God to help me enjoy the things He has given me. I am so blessed. And, though I desire to be in a relationship and have nice things, I have a lot of great things in my possession right now. I need to be thankful for those things and take care of them. Perhaps when I lest expect it, God will provide other things – things I am longing for – when I learn to be thankful for the things I have. This holiday season, I hope you will join me in learning to be content with what God has given you. It is my personal challenge to myself and to you. God bless.

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Black Friday Madness

With over $950 billion dollars of credit card debt in the US, I was surprised to see that Black Friday sales were up almost 4% from last year. Not only was I surprised to see a higher percentage of buyers this year; I was also surprised to hear some of the most ridiculous displays of consumerism.

A worker at Wall Mart was trampled to death after opening the doors. Let me write that again so it will sink in a little. A worker at Wall Mart was trampled to death after opening the doors. When workers attempted to help their co-worker, they were pushed out of the way by scads of people rushing to the electronics department. Realizing the staff at Wall Mart was out of their league, they called the police for crowd control and assistance. Unfortunately the police were not much of help at first. The crowds of people pushed them around as well. Eventually, the crowds of people were controlled and the man was taken to the hospital. He was soon pronounced dead. 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour, including a woman eight months pregnant, were injured during the stampede.

You know, I have to wonder about the “Christmas spirit.” An innocent man died because a bunch of people acted like a bunch of savages. One reporter wrote, “Roughly 2,000 people gathered outside the Wal-Mart’s doors in the predawn darkness. They were chanting, “Push the doors in,” the crowd pressed against the glass as the clock ticked down to the 5 a.m. opening.”

How did the crowd respond when they found out that their actions were the cause of a “heart attack” and death of an employee? One reporter writes, “When they were saying that they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, “I’ve been in line since Friday morning!” They kept shopping.”

Consumerism is a plague that breeds off humanity. Unfortunately, it seems as though most of the US catches it and is unable to shake its symptoms. The results of consumerism range from mild to acute responses. For some of us, we slowly rack up credit card debt while others… well… You get the idea. For this holiday season, I hope we will find the remedy in Christ. If we do not get this disease under control, it could end up killing us.

A Four Post Conclusion and Challenge

I have written two posts on the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) as well as two posts on the Church. I would like to now combine these four posts into one important post; I have been challenged to learn about myself. To do this, I am going to make a list of “If” statements followed by a few short thoughts on the “Then” – our responsibility and how we should then tie it all together. Hopefully this will bring each aspect of these posts together much like a conclusion of a book or an article. I hope it will encourage conversation and questions of your own that will provoke us to be more about the body of Christ rather than attempting to be something we are not.

If…

We believe that the Gospel is an announcement that “Jesus Christ is Lord.
We believe the Gospel is not about how we can be saved or that Caesar has deity authority.
We believe the Gospel is a message is something that really is “good news.”
We believe the Gospel is dependant on the working of the Holy Spirit.

We believe we are called to love others with holy affection.
We believe we are called to outdo one another in service towards one another.
We believe that we will have to stand in front of God and give an account of our lives – Good or evil.
We believe we are saved for works and not saved by works.

We believe that it is the people that make up the church and not a building.
We believe that Church ultimately is a place of community, fellowship, and unity.
We believe that the Church is sent out to make other communities that imitate the way of Jesus.
We believe that we are dependant on the body of Christ in order to embody the image of Christ.

We believe that Church splits are dumb.
We believe that Church splits divide the body of Christ.
We believe that the reasons for Church splits are not always biblical but are oftentimes selfish in nature.
We believe that we are called to live in unity with others despite their personal, theological differences.

Then…

Why are we doing such a bad job at being the Church? Why are the divorce rates among Christians just as bad if not worse off than the world in which it seeks to proclaim the good news? Why don’t we allow forgiveness to reign in our hearts when someone wrongs us? Why are we always so ready to “stick it to the man?” Why can’t we allow our differences regarding a whole bunch of issues that has nothing to do with salvation to be the very thing that divides us? Why is it when people see you or I in the grocery store or behind the wheel, they have a hard time seeing something different in us – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that He is Lord? Why can’t we allow love to be our defining characteristic? These are some honest questions I have been considering along the way and I am really struggling to find the answers to these questions because, as the body of Christ, I don’t see why it is so hard for us to be the Gospel in the flesh. I am so tired of getting a bad rap from non-believers because we don’t act any different from the world in which we live. I am in the world, yes. But I am striving to not live of it. I want people to see that. I want people to see the Gospel in the flesh when they see me. That should be the goal and desire of every believer who has experienced the good news of Christ and possess the image of Christ.

When you and I received the good news and confessed Jesus as Lord, we made a claim that any other authority is subservient to Jesus. We have no other gods that can prevail against that truth. We, in a very real sense, took on the Gospel. When we lived as the world, for example, we did whatever we wanted with our money. Now that we have put on the Gospel of Jesus, we have come to realize it never was our money in the first place – it was always God’s. Therefore, how we give and how we spend and how we save our money must be significantly different then our “worldly thinking.” This goes for every aspect of our lives (work ethic, relationships, sleep, our eating habits, are “down time,” all of our time, and our lives respectively) – this all changes and has to because we no longer live as the world but we have put on, as Paul states in many of his letters, the new man – or put on Christ.

Now this is significant because this new man is no longer defined by my personal thoughts or selfish desires but ultimately comes under the headship of Jesus Christ. Arguing about paint colors for a wall (see post on church split), for example, should not be something that you or I entertain because it is about the Gospel – not the color of a church wall. How a church looks in general (see post on the church) should not be a vision of religion but an embodiment of Christ.

In conclusion, I want to leave you with a question that you can ask of yourself. It is not a question I have thought up but have pondered – so I can’t take any credit for thinking of it. I hope you will take a moment and reflected, meditate, or whatever it is you do to think about spiritual things and respond in such a manner that involves both action and words.

“If someone else were to live your life right now, at this moment, would they know the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how to live it out in a tangible, real, and authentic manner?”

Got Church?

I am sifting gears for this post in order to share some things I have learned about a pretty important topic: The Church. What is the church? Why do we have it? What makes a “gathering” church and what makes a “gathering” not?

Church is not a building – It’s people:

Church is not a building with four walls, a roof, and a big steeple on top. Church is not found in any building at all. Church in fact, has absolutely nothing to do with a building but has everything to do with people. The first “church” was a very small church. In fact, it had a membership of only three members. It was quite possibly the most perfect church that had ever existed. I am talking about Adam, Eve and God (I know God is three-in-one, which is an important piece to this church business we will consider in a moment). Adam and Eve had church with God. They spent time each day with God, in fellowship, worship, conversation, community, and all the above. It was a perfect church; it was a one-of-a-kind church that will one day exist again in the future.

* The church is not a building – it is about people.

It isn’t good for man to be alone:

In Genesis, God made man in His image. That is significant because that is where the church finds its identity – namely in Christ. When God made man, He said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. I had always struggled with that thought. Why on earth was it not good for man to be in fellowship with God as he was? It isn’t that I think women were a mistake or something or that women aren’t needed – they are. And I think this is where another characteristic of church is found. You see, God is one and yet He is three. There is a union that makes them complete and the trinity of the Godhead is important to fully manifest the greatest of God. In the same way, it was not good for man to be alone because it is God’s very nature to have a unity of community within the Godhead. So God made a helper/encourager/and companion for man to live and work together – to have fellowship, community, and relationally connect with in the garden.

* The church – from the beginning of time – was made for community, fellowship, and relationally in order to manifest the fullness of God’s image.

As God cannot fully manifest Himself in one entity, the church cannot manifest the image of God without others. This is the very nature of God. This is ultimately why we were created – so that we can experience the joy He experiences with the community of the Godhead. In a very real way then, I am dependent in being relational with other believers so that I can fully bear Christ’s image.

Once we have established that, we begin to see the mission of God unfold before us. There really can’t be any framing of the mission of God unless our operating theology doesn’t include a community – the Church. The mission of God is about establishing that in the world. What then does that community do? That community is also sent into the world, after the pattern that Jesus gave us, in order to multiply and regenerate other communities.

* Once we become a community, we are then sent to build other communities where fellowship, worship, and relationships exist, thus becoming a body that reflects the image of Christ to the world and beyond.

Jesus, in John 20:21 speaks concerning this issue saying, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you in order that you might bear much fruit.” Jesus spoke this to his disciples after He had been with them for several years. Jesus had taught them all they needed to know in order to be in relationship with others. He modeled this relationship/community/and fellowship with them in order that they might go out and do the same. They would not be alone though. Jesus would give the Holy Spirit to them in order that the Church would thrive.

This is where our understanding of church must precede. The church is not a place where we attempt to get people into the pews to sit through long sermons on a Sunday morning. The church should be a place where people are brought into relationship with God and others. The form in which that takes place can be unique in a variety of ways and should not be limited to a specific way. In closing then, I want to encourage you to consider what church has been to you and how church should be understood through the examples given to us in the Word of God. Are you really “going to church” or are you just going to a place where you sit, sing a few songs, giving lip service without really meaning what you are singing, throwing a few dollars in a plate that goes by, and clocking in your service for the day? I don’t mean that in a rude way but I found myself doing that several times before and have had to repent from my ways. Let’s be about the church – the body of Christ – the image of God that we possess in relationship with God and others. Let’s not allow four walls, a roof and a steeple be the only place we experiences the joy of community with God and others. Rather, let’s make this church thing a lifestyle that we enjoy often. Maybe then we can really get a glimpse of what heaven will be like while we are here on earth.

The Truth of Independence and Self-Sufficiency

Independence
Noun

1. Freedom from control or influence of another or others.

Self-sufficient
Adjective

1. Able to provide for your own needs without help from others; “a self-sufficing economic unit”.

We had a forum on poverty at our church the other day. One of the gentlemen continually used the word “independent” and “self-sufficient” in his speech. I couldn’t help but wonder if the reason why there are so many people poor in our area is not a lack of being independent or a lack of self-sufficiency. In all actuality, I want to believe the very reason many are in the position they are in has everything to do with the lack of community and dependence.

I tend to believe that independence and self-sufficiency are words that mask the reality of life. We are so dependent on a variety of people to do things we could or would never dream of doing. For instance, you and I go to a grocery store or a farmer’s market to buy food. You and I did not grow that food at all. We are dependent on the farmers to provide that necessary provision so that we can enjoy an apple or an ear of corn. What about going to the doctor’s office? When I had to have surgery on my heart, I didn’t do the surgery on myself. I was dependent on the surgeon to provide a need for me so that I would live. You and I (unless you are Amish) go to a store to buy our clothes and other material things. We didn’t make any of it. From our jobs to our health, from our clothes to our automobiles, you and I are dependent on so many different people and things, it seems as though such words like Self-sufficient and independent should be removed from the dictionary all together.

The biggest area of dependence we all have – Amish or not – is the cost for our sin. You and I cannot pay for it at all – it is a price that is too great for anyone to pay. Only Jesus could pay such a price for our sins and reconcile our relationship with the Father once again.

It isn’t wrong to be dependent on others. It is wrong to be lazy and to do nothing. It isn’t wrong to be in need. It is wrong to expect others to do everything for you while you sit and play video games all day. We have a responsibility to ourselves to do what we can to provide for our families and ourselves. We must continually realize though that we cannot do it all alone. We really do need each other.

I think it is interesting to quickly note that even God the Father realized that it was not man to be alone (Genesis 2) and so He made a helper, a companion, and an encourager for man. When this was all accomplished, God said it was, “Very good.” I guess I can’t disagree with Him.

I guess the reason I am writing this post is to dispel any thoughts of self-sufficiency and to tag others to be apart of something greater than themselves. We are called to be apart of a community that interacts and works together. We are called to strive and help others who then are called to help us when we are in need. In Acts 2, the church had all things in common and no one lacked anything. If there was a need, people helped out and did what they could. That is how relationships work and we need to do a better job at it if we want to make it in this world.

I don’t know what this is calling you to do but I know what it calls me to do. I just hope that I can live up to the calling. It isn’t easy to say that you are in need. It is much easier to be the one providing for others. Both play a unique and important role though. We need to be sensitive to those needs and how we can respond when we are able.

Did God Create Evil?

A University professor at a well-known institution of higher learning
challenged his students with this question.

“Did God create everything that exists?”

A student bravely replied, “Yes he did!”

“God created everything?” The professor asked.

“Yes sir, he certainly did,” the student replied.

The professor answered, “If God created everything; then God created
evil. And, since evil exists, and according to the principal that our
works define who we are, then we can assume God is evil.”

The student became quiet and did not answer the professor’s hypothetical
definition. The professor, quite pleased with himself, boasted to the
students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a
myth.

Another student raised his hand and said, “May I ask you a question,
professor?”

“Of course,” replied the professor.

The student stood up and asked, “Professor does cold exist?”

“What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been
cold?”

The other students snickered at the young man’s question.

The young man replied, “In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to
the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of
heat. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or
transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or
transmit energy.

“Absolute zero (-460F) is the total absence of heat; and all matter
becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does
not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have
no heat.”

The student continued, “Professor, does darkness exist?”

The professor responded, “Of course it does.”

The student replied, “Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not
exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can
study, but not darkness. In fact, we can use Newton’s prism to break
white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each
color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into
a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a
certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn’t this
correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when
there is no light present.”

Finally the young man asked the professor, “Sir, does evil exist?”

Now uncertain, the professor responded, “Of course, as I have already
said. We see it everyday. It is in the daily examples of man’s
inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence
everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”

To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist, sir, or at least it
does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is
just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the
absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what
happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s
like the cold that comes when there is no heat, or the darkness that
comes when there is no light.”

The professor sat down.

The young man’s name? Albert Einstein.

Authorship Question: Scot McKnight’s Site

I think I am going to start a group on facebook or something called, “B.A.” or “Blogs Anonymous. I definitely spend way too much time reading blogs on a variety of issues that span from life, religion, and other events and circumstances, I feel as though I might have to join a group and go through a 12-step program or something. In all serious though, reading other people’s thoughts about just about anything is really interesting to me. It seems to me, in many cases, that people are free to express their thoughts in ways in which they are unable to do any other way. I also think the freedom to say pretty much anything or question just about anything also has an appeal many people enjoy.

One of my favorite blogs is Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight. I am not sure how he has the time to write as much as he does but he always seems to challenge me in my thoughts. The other thing that is so unique about Scot’s blog is that so many people respond and write along with him (I, myself have had a good share of responses as well). Read today, Scot posed a question that I thought I would write about here. I hope that you all will respond to the question with your thoughts as well. The question is,

“When you read the Bible, let’s say for formation primarily, what difference does it make to you to ponder authorship or historical questions?”

I have never been asked this question before. It is a very honest and fitting question. I guess another way to ask this question could be something like, “Does our dependence on the Word of God depend on the authorship of each book of the Bible?” To answer this question with broad strokes of the paintbrush, I thought I would keep it to a couple of simple points:

First and foremost, the Bible only means something if we, as believers, decide that the Bible is not just another book to collect dust on our coffee tables. Rather, we must decide that it is God’s Holy Word to us that brings forth revelation from God, through His witnesses, to us in a written compilation of letters, poetry, history, and narrative. The Bible is so distinctive because it spans a timeline of a lot of important history and events. The authors of the Bible, who witnessed these things and felt it important to write them down for us, are said to be about 40 distinctive people who most likely did not know one another and lived over a span of 1600 years. This is very significant. This is the first point to consider when assessing the question we have been asked to answer.

The second point I would like to make is that the narrative of the Bible centers on the mission of God and ultimately the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The story of the Bible ultimately paints a portrait of God desiring to dwell with His creation. This is exemplified through Jesus, who was and is the Word that become flesh and dwelled among humanity. Through Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice, we can be reunited and reconciled to the Father once again. This is the hope in which the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation speaks of and is hard to miss.

In response to the authorship, there are greetings at the beginning of several books of the Bible that give the author’s name (Paul for instance tells us that he is the author of many of his missionary letters and not another person. In other books, we are told that someone else wrote down the words of the intended author. Jeremiah for example did not write his dissertation. Rather a scribe-friend of his wrote down the words he dictated. Finally, some of the books of the Bible leave us with no authorship (Hebrews for one). That should not discourage us from the validity of the Bible. What it should tell us is that the author of the books of the Bible are not as important as the words we are given to reflect on, meditate on, and obey. We cannot allow our relationship with God to be hindered by the lack of an author’s name. We do not need to worry about plagiarizing the Bible – all we have to do is write down the verse in which we are quoting.

Finally, in the cases in which we do have knowledge of the author’s names and an approximate date in which these letters were written, we are able to learn more about the culture in which these books were written. Since you and I (at least for the majority of people I know who read this blog), we are so far removed from the culture of the Bible (both in time, tradition, culture, language, and understanding).

So – to answer the question in one sentence, I would say that pondering the authorship or historical questions of the Bible are not wrong. It is important to be great students of the Word of God – to read great books, commentaries, dictionaries, and other materials and learn what we can with what we have been given. What is more important though: Christ, His Word, His love, and His people. As we do this, can be better stewards of our time and our energies.