Monday, November 15, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
This is a poem that I wrote a while back during a time when I was realizing the utter bankruptcy of myself. By this I mean that I found nothing good in me like the apostle Paul when he said: "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out" (Rom 7.18).
Everyone's doing it so why shouldn't I?
Why shouldn't I try it just this one time?
Maybe one time becomes maybe some more
Until all of these maybes are who I am at my core
In the depths of my heart, in the depths of my soul
Nothing good do I find, as far as I go.
I try to do good and I try to do well
But inside of this man is nothing but hell.
The only thing in this life I've found to be worth anything
Is the cross of the Christ to which desperately I cling.
It is only a few verses later that Paul is able to say this: "
Monday, October 25, 2010
"then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." -Genesis 2.7
The Great and Mighty God who has just formed the universe by the power of His words is now breathing life into a pile of dirt. This contrast between divinity and humanity is strikingly manifest in these moments of man's formation. Our emergence into this world is modest indeed.
"By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." -Genesis 3.19
The fragile nature of man has been made apparent ever since the immediate aftermath of his Fall. Every man and woman who has preceded us has experienced the stark reality of his or her own finiteness. We cannot escape the fact that we will all die. And so we distract ourselves with the pleasures of the moment hoping to forget our mortality. Fools that we are! It is time to come to grips with reality. The truth is that we are not invincible no matter how strong we may believe ourselves to be. The fantastic discoveries that we have made in our scientific studies pale in comparison to our utter lack of understanding of these very things. As our knowledge grows, so too does our awareness of that which we do not comprehend.
As Christians we delude ourselves in regards to our own strength and ability. We tend to make it our goal to 'be better' but this only reveals our lack of understanding. Do not the Scriptures declare that we are "new creations"? What could we possibly do to make ourselves 'better'? We fail to realize that God cares more about who we are than about what we do. He does not command the sinner to do good works and live righteously in order to earn salvation. Scriptures reveal that man has nothing, in and of himself, that deserves or obligates God to do anything good for him. It is on this foundational truth that we understand the grace of God - the provision of His Son as a payment for the debt which we owed. If we did not deserve this yet were given it, how can we seek to earn God's acceptance as His child when He has already given us the greatest gift of all?
We make vows and commitments to live godly but are misguided in our motive. The truth is all that will protect us from sinful desire. We must first know the truth if we are to believe it. It is to be noted that these are NOT one and the same. We may know the truth, yet fail, or even refuse, to believe it (see Rom 1.19-20). The nature of faith is confidence, reliance, and trust. It is not conjecture, speculation, or presumption. Attempting to keep the rules never worked for the Israelites; let us learn from their example! God has not declared us morally obligated but perfectly justified. We have already been accepted by Him as His children so let us not spurn His acceptance by seeking to earn it.
A great truth that I have been thinking much about is that God understands us and our weaknesses. In fact, He desires those weaknesses to be used as manifestations of His power (see 2 Cor 12.9). He does not demand instantaneous change nor does He expect perfection. However, He does require us to be faithful with what He has given us to the extent to which we are able. Any normal parent does not expect their 3 month old son to take the garbage out. They understand that the capacity for responsibility grows with maturity. God deals with us in the same manner. Be faithful with what you have been give and rest in the fact that God is continuously at work within you.
"As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust."
Saturday, August 21, 2010
"She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."
- Matthew 1.21
Whether we are 'saving big' at some store, saving a file on our computer, or even saving some ice cream in the freezer for later, we tend to use this word 'save' numerous times throughout our everyday lives. This word can be used in a variety of ways, but what in the world does it mean when we see it in our Bible? The root of this word as used in the Bible has to do with rescue or deliverance. The single most important aspect to consider when we see this word is to figure out from what is one being saved. By this I mean that if I were to say: "I was saved", then the proper question in response would be to ask: "What/who were you saved from?" To be saved implies something from which one has been saved.
The very name of Jesus was to emphasize the purpose of His coming: to save! Yet this was not necessarily the kind of saving that most of the Jews were expecting for He came to save them from their SINS. He did not come to build orphanages, provide clean drinking water and food, or conduct other 'humanitarian' efforts. Indeed He did heal the sick and spent much of His time with the lower classes and outcasts of society. However, His purpose on earth was much greater than that, for He understood the need of man. For man may need food and water, but Christ Himself said that He was the Bread of Life and Living Water. He identified two of the two most basic needs of men, women, and children and then applied that same label to Himself. HE is our greatest need. What does it matter if man is given food to eat and water to drink, yet dies in his sins and so goes to Hell?
I understand the value and importance of providing help for those in need, but I am convinced that we must have our priorities straight whenever we proceed to 'provide' for the needs of others. There is something seriously wrong if more time, energy, and resources are poured into 'humanitarian' efforts rather than the building of mature churches. The most important thing is the preaching and teaching of the Word of God and EVERYTHING else comes second to this. For it through the Word that the Spirit convicts us and causes our growth. It is the Word of God that reveals to us the character and nature of God. It is the through the Word of God that we gain knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1.1)
So what do we need to be saved from? We must be saved from our sins or else nothing else matters in the end. However, it is unfortunate because hundreds of millions of people all over the world have never heard of the provision for their need. They never will hear unless someone comes and tells them the message of the Christ - He who was made sin though there was no sin in Him, He who died on the behalf of His enemies, He who came back to life in power and honor and glory, He who lives this day in those who have believed the testimony concerning his death and resurrection. How then will we choose to live?
"and they were saying to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.' "
- John 4.42
Thursday, July 15, 2010
It's been a while since I've updated my blog...
I've embarked on numerous adventures since then and so I'll take a little time to reflect on the past couple of months before sharing what's on my mind. As of May 15th I can now call myself a graduate of New Tribes Bible Institute. It has definitely been an exciting journey these past two years spent in Jackson, Michigan. Numerous hours have been spent in the classroom, friendships built and deepened, and too many wonderful memories to recount. For those who don't know already, I will actually be heading back to NTBI-Jackson this next year for an internship there. Mostly I'll be working in the kitchen but will also have the opportunity to continue relationships with both the staff and students at the school. I am excited for the chance to be a part (though a very small one) of reaching unreached people groups with the gospel of Christ. Because of this internship program, the cost of running the BI will be somewhat less. Why does this matter? This means that the students will not have to pay as much for their Bible education. There will be about 14 of us interns doing various jobs around the school such as child care, food services, office work, or maintenance. The program will only require about 20 hours a week; this allows the interns to get part-time jobs in Jackson. However, I will be working in the kitchen full-time which means that I will be paid for half of that time. This will be a huge benefit as I will not have to seek out another job (which can be very difficult in Jackson). Amber, my girlfriend, will also be a part of the internship program working in the office.
Anyways, since graduation I spent some time in Michigan with Amber's family, went to two weddings in beautiful Pennsylvania (and spent a week there!), went to Amber's sister's wedding in Michigan, and then Amber and I took a road trip from Michigan to Missouri to Colorado and then finally to Idaho. Yes, I know that we took a longer route than necessary but we were able to visit the Missionary Training Center in Missouri (which Amber had never seen yet) and also got to see friends of my family in Colorado Springs. My sister Bethany's wedding was the weekend after we arrived in Idaho and the next week we were able (very randomly and unexpectedly) to visit friends in northern Washington and some of Amber's relatives in southern Washington. Since then we've been involved with my church's VBS and ministry at Camp Pinewood. So yes, we have had an extremely full summer so far (and by full I mean full of great times). Now to some of what has been on my mind lately.
Truly, it's been a while. It's been a while since I've fallen to my knees in adoration and wonder of all that God is. It's been a while since I've found myself lost in contemplation of His Word. It's been a while since I've had an epiphany of God's grace. I find that is all too easy to distract myself away from the things of God. To be caught up in the moment is to have forgotten eternity. Life goes by, moment by moment, and I rarely take the time to consider the ramifications for the decisions made in this moment, this hour, this day, this life. Focus on self is the deadliest and most widespread disease of the history of man. We are all infected and there is only one cure: to die.
Paul tells us in his letter to the believers in Rome to regard ourselves as being dead - dead to sin. He goes on to say that we should regard ourselves as not only being dead to sin but also as being alive to God. Death may be the cure, but there is hope in life after death. For did not the Savior of the world demonstrate such when He Himself died? Beaten, bruised, and nailed to a cross He died an ignominious death - thieves on the crosses next to Him and His closest friends having forsaken Him. But there is hope because He rose from the dead unto new life! In like manner, I am identified with Him in His death and resurrection - dead to sin and alive to God. Dead to self-focus and alive to God-focus.
It's been a while since Jesus: the Anointed One of God, the Savior of the world, the Last Adam, the Man who is God; it's been a while since His death and resurrection. But this I say: it was those moments which have the greatest bearing on eternity for He alone is the way to the Father. In Him alone is life. He is the epitome of truth. It's been a while since He died and rose again. It's easy to get distracted and lose interest in eternity. What must always be on our minds is the fact that His return will come in but a little while.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." -Colossians 3.1-2
I seem to be a creature of contradiction.
I live in a world of death, darkness, and decay. Yet most of those around me live in willful ignorance to the truth. We have manufactured a world of neon lights, suburbs, technological achievement, academic pursuit, high-minded philosophy, and comfortable morality in an effort to disguise reality. We dress up the pain and darkness of life in order to hide ourselves from the hopelessness of it all. What startles me the most is my own response to the insanity of this world. Have I become content in the contradiction?
I am a sinner turned saint. A child of God with a high calling who finds within a contradiction. For not only is he surrounded everyday with all that is contrary to God, but he continuously discovers within himself an intense craving for that which is abominable in God's sight. All that man holds dear pulls at my own heart. There is no greater enemy than ME. As if everything that would tempt me one way or another to partake in this world's delights, as if this was not enough I am indeed the true problem. The only reason why I experience any kind of internal struggle in the face of temptation is because there is that in me which loves to sin. I am the sinner who loves to sin.
"...[W]e look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." -2 Corinthians 4.18
It is to this which I am ever struggling to focus my eyes upon: that which is unseen. I cannot see God. I cannot walk up to Him as His child and talk with Him. I do not tread upon the gold of heaven's streets. What I have been given is a Book which is God's disclosure of Himself to mankind and on its pages I find many things which are hard to believe. It says things about myself that I would not know otherwise. Specifically, I am not of this world. Trusting this statement is a daily battle. This Book tells me to deny the things of this world because I am not its citizen but am heaven's own. Yet I walk upon the stones of this globe looking upon all that my eyes and heart find desirable. To deny oneself is to trust the testimony of God. It comes down to a decision whether to believe the words of this world or the Word of God. I am torn between one and the other, but there is much reward when one takes God at His word. The world offers me instant gratification, self-esteem, and little to no accountability. God offers me His Son - broken, bruised, scourged, and hanging upon a cross. A spectacle that men mocked and ridiculed. His Son who died and was laid in a tomb. His Son who came back to life and is alive today! His Son who is Life itself.
Tears are shed, bodies are laid in tombs, and men revel in their drunken orgies or high-minded snobbery. In the dark depths of this night I find hope in this Book and fix my gaze upon its words therein as the star by which sailors were known to guide their ships over the vast expanses.
"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." -Philippians 3.20
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." -II Timothy 2.15
It's incredible to think that here I am just over halfway done with my last semester here at NTBI. It seems rather cliche to say that it seems like just yesterday I was stepping into this school as a fairly ignorant freshman but the time has really flown by. As I'm nearing the end I've been reflecting on my time here. I've been thinking about this whole idea of the worker. At the end of my time here I will have spent about 816 hours in the classroom under the teaching of God's Word and roughly the same amount or more spent in required homework for the classes. These numbers might seem impressive, but this was really only the bare minimum that needed to be completed. I have found it so incredibly easy to fulfill these 'obligations' and devote the rest of my time to what I wanted to do. The issue has always been a matter of priorities. It doesn't really matter whether I have 15 minutes of 'free' time or 6 hours of 'free' time - what I do with my time often reflects my value system. Those who value sports will make the time to play. Those who value reading will make the time to sit down and read their latest novel. Those who value spending time hanging out with people will make the time to do so. Those who value an intimate relationship with God will MAKE the time to read, study, meditate on His Word. This is not just going to class and doing my homework. This means intentional time spent soaking in the Word of God. Yes, classes can help one to gain understanding and insight and homework can be an excellent way to spend some intentional time with God in His Word, but they are NOT the end goal. This has been a real struggle all through my time here at NTBI because it is so easy to disconnect from it all and make it into mere academia and the learning of facts. NO! As one of my teachers here has told us several times: "We are in a living relationship with a living God." We must not lose sight of this in all the academia or we have lost the very reason for such academic pursuit.
However, I am also coming to recognize my utter need of being in the Word continually. It is the TRUTH, my secure foundation. I must learn to approach the Word with neither intellectual infatuation nor apathy. This is a surprisingly difficult balance to maintain for one day I am consumed with all the academia of my studies in the Word and the next I am almost indifferent to it. I must be intentional in my relationship with God and pour out hard work to understand the Scriptures in order to better understand my heavenly Father. It's just like any other relationship that you want to grow deeper; you've got to spend a lot of time building it but you've also got to be intentional in the relationship by making time for the other and really seeking to understand them at their core level. The good thing about God is that He's ALWAYS there for me to come back to and I'm the only one who ever really steps away from the relationship.
The other thing I've been thinking about is this whole idea of rest. Sure we should work hard as the servants that we are, but we must not think that it is all about how much we strain and stretch ourselves for that is simple pride in our own abilities and strength. As the apostle Paul himself said: "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Php 4.13). His strength was great and not of himself, therefore his effort was sensational. The reason for this is that he did all things relying on the ability of God to do the impossible. In the midst of intense labor we must stop and ask ourselves if we are relying on our own strength or the strength of the Almighty. In this we find rest and can put forth much expenditure from THIS position of God-dependence.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11.28-30