Monthly Archives: February 2014

Reflecting God

Previously I talked about understanding loving God as obedience and enjoying life. I would like to summarize these with the proposition that the life worth living is the one that reflects the character and nature of God. If we know who God is, then we can live the life we want to.
Rather than try and urge people to just obey God in order to love him, if we focus on reflecting his nature, we include both direct obedience following his created order. We need to have a mindset that seeks to follow his design in creation. If we are only seeking to follow law, then what are we to do with the myriads of grey areas we run into on a daily basis?
For example, if I am to reflect the nature of God in my finances, I am going to give money to those in need, I will avoid debt, I will not stress over finances, and I will save for a rainy day. Giving money reflects God’s love and care for those in need. Avoiding debt follows God’s wisdom of not being bound to another human being. Not stressing shows faith in God’s providence and mimics the faith in God’s plan that Christ had. Saving for a rainy day comes from an understanding that God has made us finite and we have no idea of what will come tomorrow.
Reflecting God’s character, at least for me, helps to reduce the stress of individual decision. My goal is not to make the exact right decision every moment of my life. My goal is to as a whole act out God’s character and nature as much as possible. So where it comes to things that are not moral, I think of the organization and order in God’s creation.
Part of enjoying God’s creation is enjoying it on his terms, even when the sinful way is temporarily more pleasurable. Part of our faith needs to be in the goodness of God as expressed through his order.
For example, Scripture makes it clear that all forms of sexuality are to be saved for marriage. There are however no prescribed rules of physicality in dating. We have not rule of whether holding hands, kissing, cuddling, groping etc. are okay or not. God designed it so that sex means marriage. If you have sex, you are married. If we understand God’s nature as a holy devoted God to his people, and his view on marriage, then it is very simple to reflect God’s complete devotion to covenants by keeping ourselves from all forms of sexuality before marriage.
Though the Church continually rallies “no sex” there is a long list of un-Christ-like behavior between holding hands and sex. So, enjoy life through following God’s character, even if it means forgoing pleasure in the moment.

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Life Worth Living: Purple vs Green part ii

Life Worth Living: Purple vs. Green part ii
Purple. Green. Yellow. Purple. Or green. Why should I like purple or green? Or purple instead of green. I often wonder why people like anything. If I was an evolutionary naturalist, it would make sense for me to question such things.
After all, according to evolution, every aspect of a person is the sum total of all of the random chance that came before me. My emotions are merely the sum total of my biochemistry, (genealogical input) plus the stimulus I receive. If I like purple, it is because I have been condition that way. If I believe that it is better to work hard than be lazy, it is because of my upbringing. A romantic evening is all random chance and physics.
However, I am not an evolutionary naturalist, I believe in a living Holy God who deeply loves his people. He has given them the whole expanse of creation to enjoy, and has given His only Son in order to draw us into a perfect relationship with Him. But I get hung up on the eternal focus. Why bother with the imperfect when the holy awaits? After all, we already established that the wicked will prosper and the righteous will perish. Children will cry, and lovers will be broken.
But here is the catch, here is what I cannot escape even though I feel that I am often running. Christ’s love finds us, his creation, in our sin and imperfection. God did not wait to love us until we were made perfect. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were imperfect. He is also continuing a good work in us until its completion in the day of Christ.
Even though the world is broken, as the tears of a single child make it that way, it is still meant to be loved. God knew his creation would fail, and become imperfect. Yet he made it anyway. He also knew that his creation would cause him deep pain, as to love deeply is to be hurt deeply. And he still chose to create us, and love us.
I feel a call to love everything God has made. To run in the wind and enjoy the sun. To climb, (or kiss) trees and enjoy the sunset. To laugh at nothing like a little child simply because Christ has chosen to love, and one of his gifts is the world around us. Imperfect, but enjoyable because he is working redemption despite the brokenness.
And yet. As I look at a beautiful morning sunrise, that slowly changes the clouds from pink, to purple, I am afraid of that love. The love that I have no control of. It is there because it desires to be there. I cannot earn it. I cannot make a claim on some higher principle that it should always love me. But I must rely on the Love of God Himself. Just as God swore by himself to Abraham, and Abraham trusted him, I must make the leap of faith that his love will not leave. And in that peace, I can enjoy his creation.


Life Worth Living: Purple vs. Green

Life Worth Living: Purple vs Green part iii
In my last post I shared that it is only in God redeeming the world by loving us while we were still sinners that I may enjoy creation. However, this understanding is part of a struggle I deal with daily. I waft to and fro between believing it and acting on it with joy and peace, and despairing at the monotony of life. It God’s use of other people in the body of Christ that I have had the biggest move towards understanding his love and redemption.
I have a problem. I have a personal fear that all of my wrongs and mistakes will be held and accounted against me. It is not just wrongs within a certain incident and the time frame it takes to resolve it. I remember mistakes I made when I was five.
I went shopping with my mom one day, and as we were checking out I wanted to be helpful so I turned around to the people behind us and without asking began to try and move their groceries onto the conveyer belt. As I grabbed a loaf of bread and felt its softness squish just a little, I also felt a firm uncomfortable grasp around my arm as he stopped me from helping. He was angry. I felt awful for not asking. This memory will periodically pop into my head. Even now as I write this I feel some sense of regret over the incident.
I have one very close friend that I have had for many years. With this friend I share my heart. My hopes, fears and dreams. My friend both celebrates with my success, and mourns with me in my sorrow. Unfortunately I made a long series of sinful choices that hurt him/her deeply. My friend had every right to be angry, and cut off the relationship. However, I vividly remember, one late Saturday afternoon, as we both stood leaning up against my car, we talked. I was asked how I was doing, “Fine” I replied, then, “How are you really doing” I fought back tears as I confessed I was doing terribly. Throughout the conversation it became obvious I regretted and felt anguish over my decisions.
“You know I forgive you right? I was angry, and pissed, and I cried. But I forgive you. I don’t regret any of the decision I made, and I do not regret being friends with you. I still love you and forgive you.” At this point I began crying. It didn’t occur to me then, but this conversation changed my whole outlook. I have been forgiven by others. Yes. But not for as bad of choices and not one so well communicated and acted out. That friend stood in the face of my broken decision, accepted the pain, and then choose to act lovingly and keep no record of the wrong so as to be willing to still assume the best and continue in a friendship even though it means they will be hurt again.
In that moment I found freedom. Christ revealed himself through the body of Christ. My friend acted out the forgiveness of Christ for me. Now whenever regret overwhelms me, I remember God’s redemption through forgiveness, not just between God and man, but between men through Christ. This redemption and forgiveness of brokenness makes brokenness worth loving.
I can love life because love is perfect in brokenness.
With this story in mind, I think of one of my family friends, who loves the color purple. She is the one who loved mischievously in one of my previous posts. She is one of my good friends, and her whole family at that, I trust to stick by me no matter how weird I get. She isn’t perfect. She can be stubborn and a bit irritable at times, but I enjoy hanging out with her even when she isn’t acting perfectly. So as I ponder on Christ, and the family of Christ that teaches us and acts as Christ to us, I know exactly what color I would choose. Purple. Why? Because Ashley loves purple.


Life Worth Living: Purple vs Green part i

Life Worth Living: Purple vs Green part i
A life worth living is a life worth enjoying. The inverse is also true. A life worth enjoying is a life worth living. But I also assert that life enjoyed is part of life worth living.
I share honestly now, that I often have struggles with a Christian existentialism. Or at least, that is what I call it. Existentialism normally is the idea that everything you do is absurd and meaningless, but it is very important that you do it anyway. As a Christian, my struggle is to enjoy the vastness of Christ’ Creation, when it doesn’t seem to have any eternal significance. Souls are not being won to Jesus, so why bother? What benefit is it if I like purple instead of green? Why should I ice cream when I could satiate myself with broccoli? Why should I enjoy games when I could tell someone about Jesus.
Unfortunately this hasn’t had what would seem to be the logical outcome, I am the person who tells everyone he meets about Jesus. I am much to coy for that. I attempt to bring it up, but this attitude is marred by sin and so merely keeps me from enjoying life. I confess now that much of my writing is me trying to work out my own life and view of the world.
This is why I love the book of Ecclesiastes. He speaks so perfectly what I feel. Meaningless, meaningless, (like trying to catch smoke) is everything of life because it only lasts a moment. Throughout the book we are told that God has given man life to enjoy. But in chapter 2:26, just shortly after we are told to eat drink and be merry for God has given us this life, he says that this is meaningless, and striving after wind. It all seems hopeless.
But, I have hope. For at the end of the book it says that the sayings of the wise are given by one Shepherd. That one Shepherd is Jesus. He gives us wisdom, but also gives us redemption and life. Everything is meaningless because it will all be lost, the righteous perish and the wicked prosper, claims the writer. This is very true here and now. Wicked are blessed, righteous are punished.
The answer will never come in this life. The answer to these ills only comes when Jesus returns and brings justice and eternal life to the world. In Him there is hope of broken relationships mended, lost family reunited, sickness taken away, and life lived eternally in God’s presence.
But until then, I still find myself asking, “Why enjoy purple over green?”


Over-stimulation of Imagery

Using images and symbolism in order to engrain a new way of thinking into our heads is one of my favorite approaches. It works better than just telling yourself to do something. It also is a lot more interesting and can become very creative. For example, imagine a samurai, in full garb and sword drawn surrounded by enemies. He is however next to a koi pond and cherry blossoms are flying through the air. He is not in a tense fighting stance, but standing calm and relaxed, and smiling slightly. Now that is peace in the midst of chaos. Be the Samurai. Don’t stress, don’t prepare once the battle has started, just do.
Depending upon your ability to imagine, and your familiarity with the concept of peace in chaos, this could be a very good image to bring to your mind in the middle of stress. Pictures carry a lot more weight than words at times, and bring in one more of the senses in order to try and connect the person we want to be with the one that is.
Images are also used for creating passwords. Imagine a tree, next to a boulder, next to an oddly bent light. The password is ‘tree.photon?’ where the light is shaped like a question mark. Now this could be made as complicated as you like.
However, this method is becoming weaker and weaker. As you go throughout your day you are going to run into countless images. Many will be normal, billboards with a face on it, but others will be odd drawings or graffiti. The problem that poses for us is that it makes each individual image more difficult to remember. The brain naturally partitions things as important or unimportant, as standing out or plain. The more images you have running through your head, the less any one of them can take up significance or stand out.
Using images to spur us on towards success, becomes less and less effective. I have no application, just an observation. I am sure the over stimulation of images has other affects, but I can’t think of any at the moment. Do you have any ideas?


Obedience as Acting

On an Excellent Life
We as Christians are given two commandments, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and to love your neighbor. This is the standard that we have of a life well lived, how well we love God and love other people. Loving God includes, loving other people, and obeying his commands. For, “Those who love me, obey my commandments.”
The simple part is often understanding God’s commandments. Do not let improper speech come from your mouth, be kind, keep no record of wrong, and others. But applying these is difficult. Seeing the connection between a good blessed life and obeying God’s commands is more difficult, that will be the topic for my next blog post.
The second piece is loving other people. My encouragement for living a life worth living is learning to love creatively, intently, and fiercely.
Loving creatively could be hiding surprises all over some ones house, like army men, chocolates, or flowers, for someone to find. It could be leaving a recording of a love message for them to find. You could: draw their favorite activity (even if it is stick figures), compliment something no one gets complimented on, like their elbows, or make them some food. Most importantly, you should do something that points them towards Christ, because the greatest good for everyone is Christ. You can do nothing greater for a fellow person than to bring them one step closer to the creator.
Love intently. Even if you don’t feel like it. Just do it. Be intentional. Plan. Base the idea upon who the person is. Think of their struggles and their joys, connect the act of love to that. God is pleased with water for a child, and he is also pleased with a gift in love.
Love fiercely. Here I have the pleasure of a story. It would be better titled love stubbornly, but it works here.
I was hanging out with a group of friends one day and we decided to get yogurt. As the eight of us crowded into the yogurt shop, one of our friends, who we saw rarely, mentioned he would like something but had no money. When Ashley offered to pay for it, Jeremy was quick to deny the offer. The banter went back and forward for some time. “Well what if we split something?” she pushed. He finally agreed. Then the bantering continued as she tried to pick out flavors he would like. They were last in line, and when they came and sat down at our table, she took the first sweet bite. “Yum.” Then put her spoon down. “I am done”
“What?” Came Jeremy’s reply.
“Yeah, there I had a bite. We shared. You can have the rest.”
So love fiercely, stubbornly, and sometimes with just a bit of mischievousness.


Life Worth Living: Mischievous Love

On an Excellent Life

                We as Christians are given two commandments, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and to love your neighbor. This is the standard that we have of a life well lived, how well we love God and love other people. Loving God includes, loving other people, and obeying his commands. For, “Those who love me, obey my commandments.”

                The simple part is often understanding God’s commandments. Do not let improper speech come from your mouth, be kind, keep no record of wrong, and others. But applying these is difficult. Seeing the connection between a good blessed life and obeying God’s commands is more difficult, that will be the topic for my next blog post.

                The second piece is loving other people. My encouragement for living a life worth living is learning to love creatively, intently, and fiercely.

                Loving creatively could be hiding surprises all over some ones house, like army men, chocolates, or flowers, for someone to find. It could be leaving a recording of a love message for them to find. You could: draw their favorite activity (even if it is stick figures), compliment something no one gets complimented on, like their elbows, or make them some food. Most importantly, you should do something that points them towards Christ, because the greatest good for everyone is Christ. You can do nothing greater for a fellow person than to bring them one step closer to the creator.

                Love intently. Even if you don’t feel like it. Just do it. Be intentional. Plan. Base the idea upon who the person is. Think of their struggles and their joys, connect the act of love to that. God is pleased with water for a child, and he is also pleased with a gift in love.

                Love fiercely. Here I have the pleasure of a story. It would be better titled love stubbornly, but it works here.

I was hanging out with a group of friends one day and we decided to get yogurt. As the eight of us crowded into the yogurt shop, one of our friends, who we saw rarely, mentioned he would like something but had no money. When Ashley offered to pay for it, Jeremy was quick to deny the offer. The banter went back and forward for some time. “Well what if we split something?” she pushed. He finally agreed. Then the bantering continued as she tried to pick out flavors he would like. They were last in line, and when they came and sat down at our table, she took the first sweet bite. “Yum.” Then put her spoon down. “I am done”

“What?” Came Jeremy’s reply.

“Yeah, there I had a bite. We shared. You can have the rest.”

So love fiercely, stubbornly, and as I learned from one of my favorite people, sometimes with just a bit of mischievousness.