WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Three Things – 10/03/2018


I was thinking today about things that changed my life.  I came up with three things and I know there were more but these were the three that first came to my mind…

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

First, I recognized the strangle hold that pornography had on me…

 In 2004 I moved to New Jersey for work.  I wasn’t a Christian at that time but the move felt to me like the opportunity for a brand new life.  As I packed things to take with me the one thing that I certainly was not packing was my years of collected porn mags and videos.  At that time I realized that my porn habit was more of an obsession that a normal bad-habit.  I realized that having grown up on the stuff, wrong understanding of women had formed in my brain and so I bequeathed my whole “collection” to my best friend (sorry Scott) and was leaving for Jersey with no intention of obtaining anymore of the stuff.

It took years for me to see that my exposure to porn really was a form of sexual-abuse.  I actually thought, at the time, that women all meant “yes” when they said “no” and secretly desired to be abused and sexually mastered by men.  It took me quite a while to realize that the majority of women were not like the women who were ‘acting’ interested in me in the movies.  I had a tough time realizing that pornography was a pure fantasy-land for men and it had terrible effects on countless men and women.  Even as a non-Christian I recognized that there was something wrong.

To this day, porn is the one thing from my past life that still beckons me.  I was addicted to many things but this is the one thing from my past that I actively have to fight against.  While I don’t like it, it is a thorn in my flesh that keeps me humble while it allows me to understand others with addictions of their own.

1 Corinthians 15:16-17

16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!

Second, I took seriously a desire to know the truth…

When I was new in New Jersey I was not getting into porn nor was I hanging out at the local booby-bars so this left me with tons of time to just look at the ocean and think.  In my time of thinking I wondered what was really true about God and life.  I remember praying a simple prayer: “God, if you actually exist, I want to know who you are.”  I did not really care who God was, I just wanted to know who he was.  In fact, I expected God to be a form of Buddhism or something: anything but Christian because I didn’t want my mom to be right.

I started looking into world religions and I realized that all of them made their claims of being true; but only one of them claimed to be true because of a dead man rising back to life from the dead.  I was struck with the resurrection because if a dead man actually came back to life from the dead then I needed to seriously listen to that guy.  And the fact that the Bible instructed me to ignore the Christian claims if in fact Jesus did not rise from the dead - this was a big one for me: because all other world religions claim to be true just because they say so.

I was stuck because the Christian claim was different and now my life has been significantly improved because of it.

Thirdly, I learned to manage and budget my money…

How we use our money is the clearest outside indicator of what we really believe. ... If someone is a true disciple of Jesus Christ, the evidence will be found in that person's everyday life - including his or her use of money.  ~Larry Burkett

Getting rid of porn and accepting the truth of Jesus were huge impacts on my life, but after that was learning how to budget; and it has been no-less significant to my life.

Before I learned to budget, I lived pay-check to pay-check.  I paid my bills but just barely.  Car insurance was the tough one with its every six-month payment that I never really had and scrambled to come up with.  I was maxed out on my credit cards, I had a car payment, and if there was any money extra it was always used to feed myself, buy cigarettes and beer, and go to Atlantic City.  I was taught a good work ethic from my parents but money management was not something that I had ever really learned.  I actually believed that the only way to be out of debt in this world was to die and not exist anymore.

At that time I started listening to a daily radio show by Larry Burkett called Money Matters.  It was a radio show that talked about the Christian principles of handling money.  Larry stressed the necessity of the budget for responsibly managing money and even though it was a foreign concept to me I realized that he was correct.  Then he talked about how to get debt-free which was a concept that I did not believe possible in our culture, but he talked a lot about how to do it and so I tried it; that was in 1994.  By the end of 1995 I became debt-free and I never looked back.  Today I have a little minor debt but something that will be gone within the fiscal calendar year and because I budget I always have a month’s expenses in the bank with a good cushion for surprises.

These are among the top three things that completely impacted my life.  I know there are more and maybe even some other things that were more influential that I don’t even know about, but these are the ones that came to mind immediately.  I share them because I know that I am not the only one who had been negatively impacted by pornography, or not taking the idea of the truth of life seriously, or even never having learned how to properly manage my finances and I thought it might help you to consider your own situation. 

My prayer is that you too might find peace in your life by learning things that you may not have thought of before.

Monday, September 17, 2018

For Christ’s Sake – 09/16/2018


There are a few movements in this passage so instead of me putting the scriptures in, please follow the link and have another window open so you can read the sections as we go.

Movement 1: 8:27-30

Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is and Peter answers for them (correctly I might add) that he is the Christ – the Messiah of God.

Movement 2: 8:31-33

Jesus then teaches his disciples that it is necessary for him to suffer, be rejected, killed, and raised from the dead.  At this point Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him but Jesus looks at the disciples and then rebukes Peter; calling him Satan and commanding him to get behind him.

The Merge…

What just happened?  Why did it go from a very high point of Peter rightly identifying Jesus as the Christ to a very low point of Jesus calling Peter Satan?

What happened here was that the disciples correctly identified Jesus as God’s Christ: the Jews had been waiting a thousand years for the Christ of God to come.  In much the same way the Church of Jesus is waiting for him to return just as the Jews had been waiting for the Christ to come to Israel.  And just as the church has a very detailed orthodox theology and doctrine of what exactly will and will not happen and when Jesus returns, so also the Jews had a very detailed theology of what the Christ would and wouldn’t be when he arrived.  And according to Jewish theology, the Christ would not be is a suffering servant who was rejected by the bigshots of Judaism and then prematurely die.  And so Peter had to take Jesus aside and remind him of the “good biblical teaching” that the Israelites had developed over the previous thousand years or so.

“Get behind me Satan, for you don’t have the mind of God but the mind of men.”  Jesus erupted.

The Greek word[2] that is translated “the mind” is actually used twice in this verse and is better translated as “understanding”.  For Peter, in this instance, did not have the “understanding” of God when it came to the Christ but rather he had the “understanding” of the men of Israel and their best study of the scriptures and their interpretations of the Christ.  I can only imagine that if Jack VanImpe, Tim Lahaye, and Jerry Jenkins told Jesus what was going to happen when he returned, they too might be called Satan and told to sit at the back of the class.

We are all like Peter too.  We may have rightly identified Jesus as our redeemer who died on the cross for us and resurrected from the dead on the third day, but then we adopt very specific and detailed biblically derived opinions and theologies based on our best studies.  Too often I have caught myself explaining to God how he is supposed to act in a situation or what he is supposed to do.  I am afraid that I am too often sitting with Peter behind our Lord.

Movement 3: 8:34 – 9:1

Jesus then calls everyone together and explains to them how suffering and sacrifice is the only way to be his disciple.  The Jews had a very health-and-wealth theology about the Christ but now Jesus is kicking that understanding of Israel being restored and put again in a place of political power again out of their minds.  

This must have been a huge shock to them for everything they had ever learned about the coming of the Christ was about how good it would be for Israel to not be under the rule of Rome or any other foreign governments.  They had a very utopian ideal in their thinking and Jesus here was kicking it to the curb.

In this section of Mark’s Gospel you and I learn WHO Jesus is and WHAT he expects from us: personal sacrifice for others for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel message.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

I think about the success of some Christian ministries in the American arena and I wonder if they would know such success if they preached this message of self-sacrifice.  Somehow I doubt it; but this is the message that Jesus preached. 

Certainly faith in Jesus brings grants us forgiveness of sin and gives us life-eternal with the Father in heaven when we die, but that is a future event.  Jesus is here pointing out the now of being and living as a Christian: we are to willingly surrender our earthly lives for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel in the service of others.  It’s a Kingdom mentality.

And honestly, the calling to follow Jesus is a noble calling indeed but one that most of us find difficult to accept.

[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+8%3A27-9%3A1&version=NIV
[2] froe,w (frowe-eh-owe)Mind or understanding

Friday, September 7, 2018

NOW – 09/09/2018


A Greek born girl is healed as well as a Jewish born deaf mute; Jesus heals them both.

In Mark we see that Jesus, as a Jew, pointed out that he could not have (maybe should not have) healed the Greek girl because the Jew is preferred in Judaism.  Certainly the Jews preferred their own kinsmen and easily discriminated between themselves and everyone else.  And Jesus points this out to the woman by (possibly sarcastically) reminding her that she is no better than a dog in the eyes of the Jews.  But she replies to Jesus with words of great faith and he readily accepts her words by granting the healing that she sought.   

Jesus also healed a Jewish man who was a deaf mute and by healing them both demonstrates that there is no preferences for or discrimination between persons.

We humans have an ugly way of judging, for ourselves, who is worthy of our Lord's blessings according to our own biases when the only thing that matters to our Lord is faith.  We even might believe at times that Jesus cannot forgive and love our own selves because of something that we may have done rather than simply allowing our faith in what HE has done to be the determining factor.

We need to stop being the judges of the world but fully accept the righteous judgement of Jesus.

We are taught not to Judge according to our own preferences which is by discrimination (v. 2:4) and favoritism (v. 2:9). 

James talks about allowing our faith to be effective in our lives with demonstrations of deeds of faith.  He talks about true faith expressing itself as “believing”. 

I hear all the time that people "believe" in God, and even Jesus, but their belief in Jesus is like one's belief in any historical person.  However, the belief that James is calling us to is a genuine faith that is present and active.  A present and active faith is not an easy believism based on some nebulous past.  The belief of true faith is a belief in the present and active NOW.

NOW, we believe and have faith that we are presently redeemed.

NOW, we allow the Holy Spirit to invade our world through us.

NOW, we believe and know the peace that passes all understanding.

NOW, we live our lives on earth as it is in heaven. 

Our present and active belief is not a one-time event so that we can go to heaven when we die but it is an active present reality that allows us to live heaven here on earth NOW.

Our lives and churches thrive now because Jesus is alive now and so we believe and have faith now.  Unfortunately, too many of us are not living life on earth (as it is in heaven now) because we have allowed the evil one to convince us that since we are "saved" we need only sit back and wait for the return of our Lord.

NOW friends, is the time to begin living out our faith for all eternity.
2 Corinthians 6:2
For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
(As I wrote this I kept thinking that this song was appropriate.  Because He Lives [3].)

[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+7%3A24-37&version=NIV
[2] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+2%3A1-19&version=NIV
[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M-zwE33zHA