Archive for October, 2008

Third in the series Get close to God.

Before you get upset with me you should know the words in the above title did not come from me, but from Jesus after he calmed the sea in Mark 4:40.  I don’t blame the disciples for stressing out this early in Jesus’ ministry.  After all, up to that point he was seen only as a man that had the ability to heal people and cast out demons.  They didn’t know he could survive a ship wreck, much less control the wind.  I wonder after seeing their master later produce 5000 Big Macs out of thin air, raise Lazarus from the dead, and walk on water, if they weren’t tempted to ask Jesus for a nice juicy steak from time to time!  I bet they were pretty healthy for three years, too.

So, what’s our excuse?  We know Jesus is the Son of God, with unlimited power, who has told us not to be afraid or worry because he will always be there for us.  Or do we really know that?  Do we really believe that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God?  Fear can be a good thing and often leads us to pray, but if we continue to be nervous and to worry, then have we left the problem in his hands or did we take it back?

Sometimes we have short memories of when God came through for us.  Maybe we need to reminisce.  My job as a systems engineer constantly plunges me in over my head with problems to solve that don’t make sense.  Servers crash, files get deleted, and machines seem to be possessed.  I’ve had many opportunities to do a lot of unintentional damage but I have been rescued over and over again by “unexplained” solutions and problems “correcting themselves” that go way beyond coincidence.

What rules our lives?  Our faith or our fear?

Jesus knew why his shipmates were afraid and he called them on it: “you have no faith.”  In the very next chapter he tells the father whose daughter had died, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.”  On his way to heal the child a woman touched his cloak and was healed instantly.  Out of all the people crowding around him, she was the one who caused his power to be released.  Why?  Jesus explained, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.”  Just before the crucifixion he comforted his followers with these words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.”

Do you see a pattern developing here?  The emotions of fear and worry cannot be easily suppressed.  It’s like telling someone to “RELAX!”  The only way to remove apprehension and anxiety is to replace them with faith, the kind of faith that truly believes that you can trust someone to deal with the object of your fear, or at least help you get through the situation.  You don’t have to enjoy the process, but you don’t have to be afraid, either.

What does that kind of faith or trust look like?  We actually exercise that kind of faith everyday.  We trust our car to start, our chair to hold up, and our friends and spouses to be there for us when we need them (and most of the time, they are!).  Remember how safe you felt as a child when you ran to your parents arms or was protected from the bullies when you walked with your big brother?  We don’t have to try and believe in those situations or somehow work up enough faith.  We just know that the ones we love are capable and willing so we have confidence in them.

If we don’t know God is capable or willing to do what he has promised to do, then maybe we don’t really know him.  We may have an incorrect view of God or have not cultivated a relationship with him that builds the kind of trust that overcomes crippling doubt and uncertainty.  It doesn’t do much good, really, to hear how much God loves us.  We’ve heard that before.  We’ve got to experience him for ourselves.  He is more than a Sunday morning pep rally.  His peace and power is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”   Psalm 112:7

I’m absolutely convinced that learning how to get close to God is the most important topic to study in all of Christianity.  If we get that right, everything else will fall into place.  Without God working in and through us, everything will fall to pieces, including our courage.

He’s knocking at your door right now.  What are you waiting for?  Go let him in!

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Why am I this Way?

Posted: October 17, 2008 in What I've been thinking...

Four things determine who we become:

  • Who we know – family, friends, co-workers, God
  • What we know – TV, movies, radio, music, books, Bible, word of mouth
  • What we experience – voluntary and involuntary
  • What we do – decisions, behavior

That may seem basic, but how we approach the above will decide our quality of life, here and for eternity.  The naturalist (owning the prevailing worldview) will just do what comes natural and not give it much thought.  But if you believe there is more to life than flesh and blood, randomness and a meaningless existence, then please read on.

Who we hang out with, what we feed our minds with, and what we choose to partake in, shapes our values, emotions, and behavior:

Thoughts + Beliefs + Experience = Actions

If we decide that God and godly people are worth getting to know, then those relationships will help us make the right choices on where to get our knowledge and what to do with that knowledge.  If “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33), then good company promotes them.  As my former manager (and present Christian brother) Lewis Lampley always says, “relationships are the most important thing.”  I’ve also heard it said that you are only as good as the best person in your circle of friends.  If you want to be a better person, get to know someone you can admire.  In other words, raise the ceiling on the quality of your relationships.

You may be wondering, what about things that happen to us that are out of our control?  Doesn’t that affect who we become?  I would answer that circumstances certainly play a factor, but even their degree of harm is dependent on how well we have been strengthened by our relationships and the knowledge we have acquired to help us cope.  How we react to the challenges of life determines whether we become victims or victors.

Getting to know Christ leads to being more like him.  Our ways and our limitations eventually yield to his ways and no limits.  It turns a naturalist into a supernaturalist.  He may not be able to use his scientific instruments to measure the presence of God he is now experiencing, but he can’t deny the effects, including his newly found purpose, joy, and peace.

As Jonathan Morrow said last night in the equipping class (a great source of knowledge, I might add): “We are either being conformed or transformed” (Romans 12:2.)  He also explained that there is harmful knowledge and healthy knowledge, comparing Hitler’s Mein Kampf to authors like C.S. Lewis.  The TV set is the biggest influence on Americans today, who digest an average of fours a day, or 9 years out of a 65 year old life!

So, what will you become?

Who are your friends?  What is your source of knowledge?

You decide…

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Come take a ride with me on the Tail of the Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway; a four minute video of a four hour trip!

Eternal life begins NOW!

Posted: October 2, 2008 in Get Close to God

Second in the series Get close to God

Most people spend their entire lives feeding and maintaining the outward, physical vehicle that their souls reside and travel around in, but out of ignorance they neglect the most important thing of all-the needs of their human spirit.  They may believe there is a God or some type of a spiritual dimension, but since they can’t see, touch, or smell it, they really don’t give it much thought.  That is the biggest tragedy in life.  Because just as gold requires digging to be found, God and all his wonders can also be discovered if we take the time to learn how to seek him.  The tools of faith may be different than the usual scientific methods, but then again, there are things that science can not explain.

Here is another tragedy: many Christians do not experience the abundant and joyful life Christ wants to give them.  They may go to church, read their Bible, pray, and try to serve God, but at the end of the day they wonder if it’s worth the effort.  They don’t seem to be any happier than their non-Christian friends.  So they convince themselves they are not supposed to be happy; their purpose in life is to be as good as they can while they are still in this miserable world.  When they get to heaven, then, and only then, will everything be OK.

I’m here to tell you some good news.  You don’t have to wait until you die to start tasting heaven!  Did you know that eternal life can begin now?  Jesus explained this in John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” 

Not just eternal life, but eternal life!

You are born again (now), not just for later.

What are some things people brag about?  How smart they are, what they’ve accomplished, or how wealthy they are?  Is God impressed with that?

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength, or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me.’ (Jeremiah 9:23, 24)

Even those who try to serve God can miss the point:

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Jesus, Mathew 7:22,23)

Well, then, what about all the things the Bible tells us to do?  Isn’t faith without works, dead?  Didn’t Jesus say, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” in John 14:15?  Yes, of course, but as Monty Waldron, one of our teaching pastors, pointed out awhile back, we must look at the order:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments”

We don’t work so God will love us.  We work because he loves us.

When we really get to know Christ and personally experience his love, serving him is not a duty, chore, or obligation.  It is a privilege.  We will want to share him with others, not only because we’ve encountered the incredible joy and peace that passes understanding, but because Christ begins to freely love through us.  Jesus saves.  Not us!

A. W. Tozer said “We are to be worshipers first and workers second.  Labor that does not spring out of worship is futile and can only be wood, hay, and stubble in the day that shall try man’s work.”

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 6:6)  In other words, if you do it without trusting God to help you, it doesn’t count.   God is all powerful.  He doesn’t need us to do anything for him.  But he does take pleasure in helping us do things for others.  The same way a parent enjoys teaching their child a new skill or a coach seeing his team win a game.

 Does God really want a personal relationship with you?

David said “The Lord delights in a man’s way…O Lord, You have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.”  (Psalm 37:23, 139:1-3)  Jesus said “he who loves Me will be loved be my Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him…Abide in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:21, 15:4)  Does that sound like a God who is “watching us from a distance?”

The real question is: Do you really want to know God? 

I’m finding that getting and staying close to God is not easy.  I can’t just be myself or do what’s natural if I want to live a supernatural life.  In fact, I am my biggest obstacle.  I can’t be filled with the Spirit if I’m full of myself, my plans, and my interests.  I have to let God be the pilot, not the co-pilot.  It’s not that he wants us to be his puppets.  He wants to enhance and empower the unique personalities he gave to each of us.  We can only go so far with our own abilities.  With Christ, there are no limits!  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13.)  Rick Warren said “Nothing is more powerful than a surrendered life in the hands of God.”

Well, this article has been kind of an introduction to the quest for getting close to God.  I hope it has sparked your interest and whet your appetite.  If you come back to join me in upcoming chapters in this series, we will explore more deeply the process of abiding and remaining.

 Please use the comments section below to let me know what has worked for you.  No single author or denomination has a corner on this topic.  We will discover the greatest treasure on earth and heaven-together!