Friday, July 31, 2015

A Few Things I Learned from Vince Lombardi, Reggie White, Brett Favre, & Joe Montana


“When we place our dependence in God, we are unencumbered, and we have no worry. In fact, we may even be reckless, insofar as our part in the production is concerned. This confidence, this sureness of action, is both contagious and an aid to the perfect action. The rest is in the hands of God – and this is the same God, gentlemen, who has won all His battles up to now.” -Vince Lombardi, Green Bay Packers Coach

We're coming up on NFL football season.  Autumn approacheth.  There is no greater idol in Wisconsin than Packer and Badger football season.  Green Bay Packer season, of course, being the most important.  That being so, I was raised in a culture of football sports.  The entire week at times seemed to revolve around the sit down on Sundays to eat, drink, and watch the football game.  In light of that, I'd like to share some of the truths I've learned about living life, from some of the greatest football players and coaches the league has ever know.  

American football is special.  In fact it's special to me.  Sports used to be my life when I was younger.  NFL is important to hundreds of millions of Americans.  It remains so today, perhaps even more so than in the past.

I was raised in the frozen tundra of North central Wisconsin.  I've been to Packer football games over 10 times.  I've been to Badger football and basketball games even more than that.  My parents were at the Superbowl between the Packers and the Patriots.  They were even at the next Superbowl when Green Bay lost to Denver.  Football is in my blood.  In Elementary and junior high I played flag football, and tackle football.  We played football at recess, football after school, football on holidays, and football in the school leagues.  My heroes were men like Brett Favre, Reggie White, Sterling Sharpe, Leroy Butler, and Robert Brooks.

“People consider me a success because I'm a good football player and make lots of money. But if my heart's not right, if I'm not living a life pleasing to God, I'm a failure.”
Reggie White


What does it mean for a man to live well?  Is it the amount of success he achieves in life?  Or recognition?  What is greatness?  What does living a life of excellence look like?  Is it simply a question of hard work?  Or is there something more to it?

For many it's about money.  Money, money, and more money.  For others it may be about acquisition of power.  For others it might be about finding the picturesque family situation, with a home, good job, summer vacations, and a white picket fence. 

People we look to, people we think have "made it" often attest to the fact that they find themselves unfulfilled fundamentally.  Think of Robin Williams, a comedian and actor loved dearly by the American public.  He was rich, successful, and then he kills himself.  Why?  He had achieved so much, yet had so little.  

I think of the story of Deion Sanders, an all star corner back in the NFL.  Yet after achieving his greatest ambition of winning the super bowl, he's on the phone ordering a new Lamborghini...  At that moment he has this terrible sinking feeling in his gut.  He realizes he's achieved his greatest goal.  The game is over.  He's at the hotel room.  It's all starting to wear off.  He realizes he feels empty.  He's at the top, and there's nothing there (as actor Jim Carey once said).  What does he do?  What's next when you've achieved your greatest aspiration?  The moments passed, and he got on his knees in that hotel room and turned his life over to a power greater than himself, Jesus Christ.  

Some of the greatest players and coaches in the NFL have been devout Christians.  Barry Sanders gave 10% of his paychecks to his local protestant church.  He was a firm believer in Jesus Christ.   Of course he wasn't perfect, but lived it to the best of his ability.  He was known to be humble, and often quite soft spoken.  Yet he was deadly on the playing field, one of the best running backs who ever played the game.  Today we think of players like Tim Tebow, and members of the Seattle Seahawks, as well as many others who profess outspoken faith in Jesus Christ.

Coach Vince Lombardi was himself a devout Catholic Christian.  In fact he said that his strength came from the reception of the sacraments and daily mass attendance.  Lombardi is known as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game.  He placed a strong emphasis on the virtue of his players and excellence on the field of play.  He rode his team hard, but also loved and supported his team just as much.

During the Ice Bowl the Packers were down on the Cowboys 14-17.  Bart Starr the Packer QB trotted over to the sideline, last play, on the goal line, and tells Coach Lombardi that the running backs can't get out of the backfield, the ground is too hard.  But he said he thinks he can, if he does a sneak.  Lombardi looked at him and said, "Then run it and let's get the hell out of here."  In other words, sometimes you gotta stop overthinking, and just do it.  And let's go.  Very simple.  Starr of course made it in and the Packers won that game.  We question ourselves so much.  We over-think things.  We sit and feel anxious.  We wonder if we can do it.  We worry.  But instead we should be courageous.  We should man up a bit, I think.  We should have faith that we are making correct decisions.  We should stop over thinking everything and act.

Lombardi told his players to strive for perfection.  Of course no one can achieve perfection in this life, but by persevering for perfection his players rose to new levels in their abilities.   In fact, in Matthew 5:48 Jesus himself said: "You are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect."

Lombardi, Favre, Reggie White, these were names I heard a great deal.  I looked to them to understand what it meant to be a man.  I learned from my family, from those around me, and from sources outside those groups.  Hard work was something all of these men exemplified.  Not to mention, these men were dogged when it came to achieving their goals.  Yet it always began with belief, that despite the odds, despite what others said, that they could achieve greatness.  In my experience, it's as simple as that: Believe that you can, and you can.  It's just that simple.  

Giving one hundred percent is something I always did in sports.  In life it's no different.  Give it all.  And keep it up, especially when you're exhausted.  My dad always said that I gave 110% in sports like basketball and football.  I wanted to win.  I wanted to do my best.  In life it's no different.  We put in effort, we get results.  But we need God.  We need God for our strength in life.  Self-will alone just isn't enough.  We need to access that power that flows from a relationship with God.  Then He is our strength.  His power is infinite, and we receive constant strength from that.  That's a lot better than running on the small amount of force we can muster from within.  Best to connect to the ultimate power source, God.

Reggie White, one of the greatest defensive end's to play the game was actually a minister as well.  His relationship with God was vital to his life.  He was leader on the Packer defense.  His intensity was remarkable.  He set a record in the Superbowl between Green Bay and New England for sacks during a Superbowl game.  An amusing story, Reggie White was trying to decide who to sign with after some success with another team.  He had said that he believed God would indicate to him what team he ought to play for.  Mike Holgren had heard this statement in the media.  So Holgren called up Reggie White and got his answering machine.  He left the message: "Hello Reggie, this is God, I want you to play for the Packers!"  And the rest was history.

Finally we move to quarterbacks Brett Favre and Joe Montana.  Now it's not necessarily their faith that I learned from.  It was more how they played the game of football.  Joe Montana has been called the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.  Montana played every game like a game of chess.  He planned moves ahead of time.  He could connect with receivers anywhere on the field.  He was a master of the game.  You could also say that Montana was a believer.  Not necessarily in God, but he believed in victory.  He didn't wonder if he could win the game, he didn't stutter step, he didn't realistically weigh the statistics and declare pre-natal defeat.  In fact he didn't just believe he would win, he knew that he would.  He knew.  As a leader, when he knew, his men knew as well.  And he was calm, so calm under pressure.  Because to him there was no pressure.  He knew the outcome, he believed completely.  

To believe is to know beyond any doubt that victory is certain.  For the Christian follower of Jesus Christ, there is nothing less that we must believe.  We believe because we know.  We don't just wonder, we don't just hope.  We know, for certain, that we are victorious will be victorious, and have always been victorious in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

Brett Favre is my favorite quarterback.  I was born in 1985.  I first
started watching NFL football when I was eight years old, the 1993 season.  My dad and his friends told me I was very lucky because for years they had to put up with losing season after losing season.  But I came on the scene to witness the incredible career and turn around in Green Bay Packer's football.  Lucky me.  Watching Brett Favre play was a real joy.  Favre played with incredible passion.  

And so we must live life with incredible passion and abandon.  But it's more than that.  Favre did not just play the sport for victory, and he didn't just play for fun either.  Favre played in a way that I've sometimes noticed in others and in myself.  There is a moment, a series of moments really in any sports game when suddenly something just clicks.  And it's like there is this powerful spirit upon you.  You're in this zone where you're meta-consciously connected with the game in a zone of pure instinct and finesse.  You can't think yourself into that place, there's no way to force it, but when it clicks into place there is an incredible sense of rightness.  It's like everything has fallen into place perfectly, and you sense a bit of the wonder of a perfect universe.  There is this joy and energy that is unlike anything else I've ever experienced.  

Brett Favre, rolling out of the pocket, calm and collected yet pursued by defenders breaking through the line.  Everything lines up in his mind and he launches a rocket ball through a tiny gap between an LB, a corner-back, and wham.. the receiver makes a leaping grab just as Favre is torn to the ground a millisecond after releasing the pass.  Touchdown.  

In the same way, we must release ourselves to the game of life.  In the Christian faith we call that letting the Spirit work through us.  We Americans so try to pre-plan everything, sugar coat everything, and set the rules so everything goes perfectly... it's like we live on the edge of anxious meltdown.  It's like we desperately try to fix the game to go the way we want and then throw a fit whenever it doesn't go that way.  We get down in the drab debasement of life when we try to control everything.  Instead we must let go, and let God work.  We must let the Spirit work in our situations.  When QBs try to force it, 9 times out of 10 it's an interception.  But when they get into a rthymn, then progress is made.  Abandon yourself to God in life.  "Thy will be done, not mine."  Say it 10 times day.  Stop trying to control things, and instead let the Spirit work.  Incredible moments come in life when we relax and go with the flow of the Spirit.  Do you understand?  When we follow the will of God, when we live within it, God takes care of the universe.  That's his job after all.  And our result?  We receive the incredible joy and peace of Jesus Christ.  That is his gift, when we let him work in our lives.  We follow, he leads.  

As football season begins, watch for those moments in the games when reality and instinct mesh into athletic finesse and precise strategy to trigger moments of incredible talent.  Those moments capture our hearts.  Let those moments remind you that when we force things, we lose, but when we step into the patterns of the Holy Spirit, of God working in the world, when we let go and let God, we get to channel those moments of divine perfection through acts of love and mercy, exhortation and courageous self sacrifice.

Amen.


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  2.  A Rational Inquiry of the Bible: Is it reliable? Is it the word of God?
  3. Life after Death: Law, Eternity, and the Changed Mind
  4. Apologetics: Answering Atheism, Naturalism in the USA, and the Reliability of the Bible 
  5. You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of God
  6. Love Others: The Second Great Command
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  8. The Cross of Christ Jesus & Reflecting the Savior
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Monday, July 27, 2015

Life after Death: Law, Eternity, and the Changed Mind


There are two pieces, at least two parts of the human experience that every human will partake of: being born, and dying.  That's right.  The death rate for humans is 100%.  I don't think people like to be reminded of that.  It's a shocking thing to consider in fact.  

We all like to pretend we're immortal.  But the body dies.  There are graveyards in every town and community testifying to that fact.  Yet I've seen entire lives lived in rejection of that fact.  I've seen entire stories of people who hide from that fact in their minds.  Until the hospitals descend, and the grimaces of doctors tell the rest.  We're surprised by death.  Why?  Maybe because death isn't normal.  

Every human being born is afflicted with a disease.  It's a disease so insidious that no one even gives it a second thought.  It's accepted.  Yet the human body seems when inquired of by medicine, to have an infinite ability to replenish itself.  Cells in the body have the potential to reproduce and maintain the body structure forever.  Yet for some reason between the ages of 25-30 the stasis of that period begins to descend into deterioration.  Lines form on the face.  Aches and pains begin to develop.  More and more rest is required.  Eventually skin wrinkles and hair turns gray, then white, then loose. 

Death comes to us all.  Many dodge the topic, yet I think we all seem to understand that death is a reality.  Yet some starry eyed dreamers might still ask: "What is the cure to death?" Or:

"Where might I drink of the waters of the fountain of youth?"  

But most simply ignore the fact, dodge the fact, bury the fact, and eventually when all other options are exhausted... they accept the fact.

Death is coming for all of us.  That fact is indisputable.  The question is, can man live forever?  Is there such a thing as eternal life?  The clock is ticking on every life.  I think something like 100,000 people die worldwide per day.  Is there life after death?

For the atheist the answer is most certainly no.  A person does not live on.  In fact for the atheist, in billions of years the stars of the universe will eventually burn themselves out and all life in the universe will vanish.  And finally the great black nothingness of empty lifeless, light-less space. Entropy is complete.  Is that really the ultimate reality?  I don't think so. 

For the Christian, we believe all people have souls made in the image of God, that live forever.  Yet every person is appointed to die physically.  Even Jesus Christ, God on Earth had to endure the suffering of physical death.  The word of God says "Man is appointed once to die, and then comes the judgement" (Hebrews 9:27).  

But the answer for Christians is yes, every person has value and every soul will live forever.  The primary question of eternal life is the quality of that life which hinges on a theological concept called "the judgement seat of Christ." 

Or as it's phrased in Corinthians: We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10

God the architect of the universe, the stars, the laws of space and time and the human soul will indeed one day bring into judgement every single person who has ever lived.  I don't know that such a process is particularly surprising.  One of the most fundamental aspects of the human experience is our interaction with conscience.  We each have a sense of what is right and wrong.  We wrestle with that aspect of ourselves throughout our entire lives.  It's not surprising that a good God would indicate and enforce quality moral standards for his people.  Imagine how perfect the world would be if everyone lived in moral perfection.  

And so we come to the crux of our problem: Our own moral failings face to face with God's perfect standard.

Have you read through the various commands of the Old Testament?  There are many, over 300 I believe?  Anyway, probably the most popular are the notorious "Ten Commandments."  Shall we take a look?

Exodus 20:2-17


  1. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
  3. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
  5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
  6. “You shall not murder.
  7. “You shall not commit adultery.
  8. “You shall not steal.
  9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

As a Protestant I guess I'm not a huge fan of the ten commandments.  But feelings aside there really isn't anything too unreasonable here.  

Assuming God is God, don't worship false Gods, golden caves, carved figurines, and worship God only.  Since God made the universe and loves us, we ought to love him back and worship him.  That takes care of 1 and 2.  

3rd commandment, "Don't use my name as a cuss word."  I don't know but I think God is being pretty reasonable when he asks us to not use his name as a cuss word.  I wouldn't want my name used as a cuss word "Justin Steckbauer!"  God wouldn't either.  Fair enough.  

The 4th command indicates that we should take one day off to relax and honor God.  God says rest.  I'm already on board with that.  Rest is great.  I need more of it.  

5th says honor your parents.  I struggle with that one at times, I don't always get along with my dad.  And I feel the need to vent rather negatively regarding his previous conduct, har har.  But I shouldn't do that.  My parents did raise me, I think they deserve my respect.  

Let's see... don't murder.  I definitely agree.  Imagine a world where no one murdered others, or shot up churches?  That would be great.  Seven, don't sleep with someone else's husband or wife.  I agree with that.  Why do people feel the need to cut in on other peoples relationships?  I think they have a phrase for that: homewrecker. 

Eight, don't steal.  I've stolen stuff.  Many times in my life.  And I try not to do that today.  Yep, the world would be much better if people didn't steal.  Just think of Wallstreet and the Federal Reserve.  

Nine, don't lie about your friends, or even strangers.  Don't lie about what they did or didn't do.  I've done that.  I've blamed things on my sister when I was younger, when it was me.  And I felt guilty too.  I'm sure I've done that as an adult too.  Maybe to cover my poor behavior.

And ten, don't want what others have.  Or as they said in the roaring 50s and 60s, "keeping up the joneses."  Today it's competing over cell phones, Ipads, hot rods, possessions, lawn care, or even sports teams.  God says "stop wanting everything."  We've got all we need.  Stop desiring what your neighbor has.  That seems reasonable.  

As you can probably tell, when it comes to the laws of God... I'm guilty.  I've broken all ten in one way or another (No I didn't kill anyone, but the word of God says that anyone who hates a brother is guilty of murder.)  How about you?  How would you stack up in your obedience to the 10 commandments?  Click here to take the test: Are You a Good Person?

So how does this work anyway, is God grading on a curve?  Can I sneak by with a C+?

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. James 2:10 ESV  

 

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 ESV

God has a perfect standard, and I am guilty.  That means I'm in serious trouble.  On judgment day, standing on my own good deeds, I will not be good enough to live in the presence of God.  I'll be found guilty, and eternally disconnected from God.  Does that seem too mean and judgmental of God?  I don't think so.  Look at how terrible our world is today because of sin.  Sin is serious.  Whenever I've sinned, I've does an offense to God himself.  I have to remember he created me, from nothing, he owns me, and all things belong to him.  I myself belong to him.  It's reasonable to say that I'm accountable, and that a just God must provide consequences for serious crimes against good conduct.  I think we've all been guilty of adding to the problems of Earth, instead of improving them.  Left on my own standing, I deserve to be disconnected from God and left in a place of isolation.  Some call that "hell."  Spooky, but in reality, a place of disconnection from God.  And I deserve it.  When I really think about it thoroughly, it's true... I really do. 

 

But praise God that it doesn't end there.  God himself has provided a savior for us, a certain Jesus Christ of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago.  

 

Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-44 ESV)

 

In other words: "For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[a] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:3-4 ESV)

 

All of that to say: Jesus Christ is our ticket to life everlasting.  (John 3:16)  Jesus Christ is our fountain of youth. (John 4:14)  Jesus Christ is our way to eternal life. (John 14:6)

 

Each of us need to put on Jesus Christ.  The instant we do that his perfect life, perfect death, and perfect resurrection pay our debt in full.  God welcomes us into full communion with him.  It's a wonderful arrangement, considering our transgressions, which we work so hard to hide from.  

 

Death is approaching.  It's coming for all of us.  It's like a hunter, stalking us through the wilderness.  Though we will all experience physical death (the shadow of death) we can have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  

 

We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. -Galatians 2:16 ESV


We believe in Jesus Christ.  We believe that he really is who he claimed to be: God in the flesh.  And we "repent."  I don't really like that word.  What it means is to "have a change of mind."  We change our mind about what is right and wrong.  We decide to abandon our own distorted views, and embrace God's teachings regarding life.  We embrace the Christian worldview.  We agree to live as Jesus lived.  We look to Jesus for how to live.


Jesus Christ gave us a new commandment that we are to obey above all the OT commands.  He said the new command is that we love one another.  We are to love one another as he has loved us (John 13:34).  Love is the commandment we are under in modern times.  

 

"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." -Romans 13:8

 

Let all that you do be done in love.1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV  
 

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.1 John 4:11-12 ESV 

So assuming we put on Jesus Christ as our "parachute" of sorts for when this world comes crashing down, how can we know that we are remaining in Christ throughout our lives?


Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.1 John 2:6 ESV 

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James 4:8 ESV  

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV 

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 1 John 4:17 ESV


We can know we are abiding in Christ throughout our years on this Earth by living like Jesus did.  Jesus helped those in need, loved the unlovable, and stood up for the truth.  

This has been a difficult topic.  It's always difficult when we're trying to look at ourselves in an unfettered light.  The purpose of the laws of God were to show us, to convict us of our need for a savior.  I'm not trying to hurt anyone of you with these descriptions.  But it may be offensive.  The word of God itself says the gospel is an offense to those who are perishing, but it is the very word of life to those who are being saved.  To me, it used to be an offense.  Now it's the power and truth of God himself saving me.

These are difficult concepts to deal with.  The judgement of God, the wrath of God, the idea of eternal disconnection from God.  I hope I haven't scared anyone off with these ideas.  But they are the facts.  Yet we must believe and understand that these stark realities can, yes, can be reconciled with the incredible love and grace of God.  He loves us deeply.  He loves us with a full heart.  That's why he offered this simple agreement of believing in Jesus Christ and having a change of mind about life.  And then we are reborn as his own children.  That is beautiful.  He wants all to be saved.  

But a loving, graceful, merciful Father wouldn't be a good dad if he didn't also act justly, and punish those who are doing wrong.  When a child does something wicked, the dad scolds the child, and the child has a change of mind, and the dad lovingly welcomes the child into closeness with the Father once more.  It is similar when we sin against God, and then repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

I can't say I fully understand all of it.  In fact if I was making up my own god I would do it differently.  But that fact doesn't change the reality of my situation.  Just because I don't want to believe in a God who punishes evil doesn't mean that God suddenly disappears.  The facts on the ground are simple, this is the situation, and the arrangement for salvation is simple: have a change of mind, embrace the Christian worldview, and put on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, your righteousness forever.  

I'm sure we will understand better in the next life, but in this one our field of view is limited, and these vast concepts escape our ability to fully comprehend.  We want a God of unconditional love, yet we want justice for those who do evil.  We want Hitler, Stalin and Bin Laden punished for their sins, but we want unconditional love despite our own.  We obviously can't see the issues clearly enough, personal bias, whatever it is, better to trust God, and his plan.  His arrangement for the salvation of his people is simple: Faith in Jesus Christ, and changing our lives in response to His.

Consider these things carefully if you haven't yet made that commitment.  If you have made that commitment, are you living it?  Are you really living like Jesus Christ?  Have you had a change of mind?  Consider these issues carefully.  Pray if you are confused, and seek answers in his Holy word.  You won't be disappointed.  God is good, and God is love.  In the end analysis, though I don't fully understand these concepts of judgment and sin, I trust my God and his plan, that he is doing the right thing.  I really do.  You should too.  He made us from nothing.  He knows what hes doing.  Maybe I need to stop judging God, and let him do his job, running the universe, while I do mine, serving those in need.

Death is something we all face.  Death is terrifying when we think about it.  Physical death is a stark reality for planet Earth.  Lots of people are dead and lots of people are dying.  Do we have souls?  Yes we do.  We're all going to live forever.  The question is, when the jury is summoned, the court room laid forth before the throne of God, what shall the prosecutor say?  Will he have a long list of your crimes?  Or will Jesus Christ enter the court room, remove that list of crimes, and declare you innocent before God?  Will you then receive riches in heaven for your many good deeds?  And eternal life, transfixed with joy, with the billions before you whom have chosen the Son?  I pray so.  

I hope you will humble yourself, and accept such a simple and profound arrangement.  I find it to be the state of the absolute truth of this moral universe we engage upon.  It is the very soul stuff of existence itself.  We are moral beings, found immoral, yet for those who choose it, made perfect in Jesus Christ the one who defeated death on the cross 2,000 years ago. 


My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
-1 John 2:1-6 (ESV) 

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  9. The Stairway to Heaven
  10. Salvation of the Soul: Is it Conditionally Secure or Eternally Secure?

 A special thanks to Living Waters, the ministry of Ray Comfort who inspired me to write this post.  Thank you for the Way of the Master. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wisdom from Above: Living in Light of the Victory of Jesus Christ

 

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV


Ah wisdom, who can have it?  Who can live wisely in such a strange corner of the universe?  Who can live on this place they call Earth?  More so, who can live rightly? 

Perspective I think, it's all about perspective.  We arm ourselves with truth, we gird ourselves with it.  We see rightly, and we learn to live rightly.  Yet blindness is common in this life.  People seem to hide from truth.  They set up systems to subvert it.  They develop industries to plod around it.  Yet it's God's wisdom, the wisdom we ought to have that allows us to see through the ploys of this world.  Or as it says in the good word:
 "Make the best use of your time, for the days are evil."  They are indeed.  Truly they are.

When one reads in the news of the body parts of exterminated fetuses being sold for profit by a government funded organization like Planned Parenthood... You start to wonder, has everyone gone crazy?  What is it our government is sanctioning and encouraging?  

On a day to day basis our society can seem, on the surface, fairly clean cut and decent.  At least that's how it seemed to me when I was growing up.  Obviously there were issues, but it seemed like society was basically good, and people were basically getting along fairly well.  As I got older that facade seemed to peel away.  Just beneath the surface it was rotting away.  With the internet and the spread of information, it's not hard to learn about how various sectors of society and government are corrupt, broken, and charging further in those directions.  

The genocide of the unborn is one of the more disturbing aspects of that systemic corruption.  Another aspect would be the sex slave industry, or what has come to be known as "human trafficking."  Military spending in the United States.  The prison population problem in the USA.  The depravity of Hollywood and the music industries.  Cable television.  The hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into Congress from special interest groups.  Need I continue?  

The point being, wisdom is needed.  Before I came to know Jesus Christ in 2012 I saw some of these problems.  I could see some of them, not all.  It was like I was looking through a glass darkly.  I couldn't see clearly.  

Upon receiving Christ as savior, my vision began to clear.  I was reborn into a new family.  I had become a foreigner in the world, and often foreigners can see the truth more readily than natives.  Yet even for the regenerate, born again believer, seeing the truth can be tough.  Wisdom is hard to gain.  

The Holy Spirit makes so much of this wisdom business possible.  And we live in light of the victory of Jesus Christ on the cross two thousand years ago.  We live in light of that tremendous victory over the forces of corruption in the heavenly places.  So much strength flows to the believer from that victory.  It means everything.  

Through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, the new eyes, we can see there are troubles in this world, and also victories for good in this world.  At times we do suffer trials, difficult circumstances, losses, and internal sorrows, yet we do so in light of eternity.  We must always caution ourselves to remember that physical death is not the end. The social and political activists of this world tend toward despair because they see no way out, and death as the final.  But death is not the end for us, it is only the shadow of death which we pass through.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 ESV  

The wisdom from above begins with a healthy fear of God.  Yes indeed, a reverence for the Creator and a desire to shun evil.  Many don't like that, including myself.  FEAR?  WE WANT LOVE!  LOVE IS THE ANSWER!  Love is certainly very important.  But so is reverent fear.  Not a terror, but a reverent foreboding...  A trembling respect for the majesty of an infinite God.  Fear isn't always a bad thing.  Fear motivates us.  Fear warns us of boundary lines, and dangerous places where we should not go.  Fear is a good thing, when kept within it's boundaries.  A reverent fear for God keeps us humble, and reminds us of our own limitations.

I've often said that I don't like reading the Bible sometimes.  Why?  Because it upsets me.  It pisses me off.  I get angry and up in arms about what its saying to me.  I think that's a good thing! 

I just smile.  I couldn't believe in a book that I open and agree with every single sentence.  Because I'm a flawed human, and I make mistakes.  I have growing to do, a lot of it, I can see that.  The Bible is the eternal word of God, and I'm reminded of that when it offends me.  It means I'm learning and growing, and it's teaching me something that's hitting a little too close to home.  

Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding. Proverbs 10:23 ESV

Have you ever had a friend who got into trouble, did something stupid, and it was a joke to them?  I think we all know someone like that.  They laugh callously as things get worse and worse.  They jeer at anything with moral hintings.  At times I'm sure I've been that guy.  The idiot with a beer in his hand jeering and laughing while doing something bad.  Or making fun of someone.  Or hurting someone.  

But wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.  We should all try to be that person who enjoys gaining wisdom.  The search for wisdom and truth is a powerful and exciting one.  Doing evil is boring.  It's repetitious and stupid. 

An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Proverbs 18:15 ESV 

 

The truth is something I lust after with a passion in this life.  I'm so tired of hearing opinions and how people "feel."  Instead I want to know the truth about all these issues.  The truth is so vital.  It guides us in all things.  Without it we are blind fools stumbling about in the dark chasing our wicked hearts to ever terrible ends.  Often so cluelessly, jaunting into dark nests of addiction and despair.  I did in my past.  Truly I did.  Thank you Jesus for saving me from the chains I found in the nest they call drug addiction. 

 

 "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:32 ESV


In contrast is the journey of faith, wisdom, and truth.  When we know the truth we are wise.  We follow the Spirit of God into ever brightening valleys of growth, love, goodness, and service to others all the way to our final home in the eternal dwelling of God himself.

 

Who is like the wise? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed.

Ecclesiastes 8:1 ESV  

 

I was a hard nosed prick in the past.  I knew nothing, but thought I knew everything.  My friends and I would smoke pot and laugh at everything.  Some of the laughing was good, other times we'd make a mockery of sex, drugs, culture, society, government, and just hold up every aspect of life to mockery and ridicule.  No one could teach us anything, and we felt morally superior to society.  We could jeer and smoke drugs and feel superior; righteously rebellious.  Yet what were we doing, but buying drugs, smoking them, talking a lot of talk, and then doing it again the next day?  We never tried to change anything, we just complained, laughed, and got high.  Pretty dumb... let's just be real about it.  


Today things are very different in my life.  I work for an organization called the Salvation Army.  Soon I'll be moving from central Wisconsin to Escanaba, Michigan to begin an internship with the Salvation Army.  I'll be serving the needy.  To the glory of God.  I'll have the chance to fulfill my internal designs for mercy, love, and justice instead of just ranting about them.

I'll definitely continue writing and sharing the truth on this blog.  But I'm not just writing my friends.  I'm also doing.  That's so important that we also do.  When considering those endless drug talks of my past, I'm so clearly reminded to remember to do the Christian life.  And the Christian life is love and service, in practice.  I don't think I would have any right to write a word unless I was also living it.  So I encourage you also to live the life of faith.

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  Ephesians 1:16-19 ESV 

This is what one calls the beauty of the scriptures.  Ephesians chapter one is so wonderful.  The words are so filled with the Spirit, so intensely meaningful.  We find in this formula an excellent mindset for wisdom.  

First of all we are reminded to live in gratitude.  The secret to joy and happiness in life is living an attitude of gratitude.  

Still in the opening we are reminded to pray endlessly.  And to pray for others.  Prayer is huge.  We find hidden treasures in prayer, on a daily basis. 

In Jesus Christ himself, our savior, who is always with us and always accessible, we find that in the study of his life and in the knowledge of his teachings we have what Paul calls a Spirit of Wisdom and of Revelation. 

He writes of "having our hearts enlightened."  I think that's absolutely true.  As we study Jesus Christ, grow in his Spirit, and live the Christian life, our hearts are transformed.  What was once a wicked heart defaulting to selfishness and personal needs is now a soft heart, gentle, kind, full of love, brave, courageous, and powerful.  And tending toward serving and thinking of others before self.  Imagine that hm?  What a change, what a change indeed!  

We are told that we are called to hope in Jesus Christ in Ephesians chapter one.  What do we hope in?  We hope in the fulfillment of the teachings of Jesus Christ.  We hope in his return.  We hope in his act of righting this broken world, and restoring it to perfection in a divine mystery called glory.  Glory.  Who can know glory?  

This scripture speaks of our inheritance.  What is our inheritance?  When we live in wisdom, serving others, loving others, and growing in Christ, we are gathering up a store house of heavenly treasure.  What does that mean?  It is certainly a mystery.  But I think in part it means gathering wealth in heaven, glory in the next life, honor and praise in the next life, perhaps somewhat like accolades that flow back to the throne of God as witnesses to the goodness of God.  What does that look like it practice?  Perhaps something as simple as a man you cared for once, maybe 10 years ago, walking up to you in the kingdom of God, thanking you with tears in his eyes, and hugging you intently.  And so much more I'm sure.  So much more.  

And finally Paul writes in Ephesians 1 of the power of God toward his people, us, who believe, and in connection to that, the acts of God in the world at large.  The work of Jesus Christ in our lives motivates us to a life of wisdom.  We get to see the work of God.  We get to smile when he smiles in our direction.  We receive the joy of Jesus Christ when we function within his will.  Those are the works of God, as his plan moves forward in the world.

While I was packing for my move to Escanaba I felt a peace come over me.  I didn't know quite how to describe the feeling.  I felt it again this last weekend when I was in East Troy at a Salvation Army retreat.  It wasn't a jubilant joyous feeling.  But it was certainly a feeling of joy, of quiet, calm, steady joy.  I felt it again today, taking a walk with my girlfriend, talking about the move.  And I finally understood what C.S. Lewis meant by "surprised by joy."  The joy of God fills the heart of the wise who remains in the willful plan of God, those being his acts of power and greatness in a broken world.  All through Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  

In connection to that mindset is the Holy Spirit gift of sharing that faith, that wisdom with the world, and sharing the gospel.  As it is written:

For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. Luke 21:15 ESV

In conclusion, the wise person living in the light of the victory of Jesus Christ has a sense of reverent fear for his or her heavenly Father.  The wise individual lives an attitude of gratitude and prayerfully approaches every situation, praying constantly for everyone in all circumstances.  The wise individual focuses on Jesus Christ, studies his life in the scriptures, and emulates that life in the Spirit of God.  In so living the Christian life the wise person experiences a transformation of their heart, an "enlightenment of the heart."  They hope and faithfully await the return of Jesus Christ and the coming of the renewing of the world.  They also store up treasure in heaven through the good works of the kingdom of God, through love and service.  Finally the wise man (or woman) remains in the will of God, in his designs, seeking to follow God's path, not his own (even when it leads to Upper Michigan).  And through so doing the wise man gets to witness the transformative acts of God, acts of incredible greatness as he shares in the unspeakable joy of Jesus Christ.  And through all of this, the wise individual shares their journey with others, encourages others in the faith, and shares the gospel with any and all who will listen.  God is just that good.  He gives us the formula to live the wisdom from above.  In light of the victory of Jesus Christ, we indeed can live wisely.  Amen.

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family[c] in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
-Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)



Related Posts:
  1. The Paradox of Victory through Surrender: Rise Above
  2. Reflections on the Salvation Army Regeneration Conference
  3. How to trigger a Great Awakening
  4. You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of the Architect of Reality
  5. Love Others: The Second Great Command
  6. Sex, Cuisine, and Television: Overcoming the World...
  7. What is the matrix?
  8. Love God: The First Great Command
  9. Logic, History, Statistics, & Astronomy: Interdisciplinary Approach to the Truth Claims of Christianity
  10. What is the will of God?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Mindset of Christ: Teach Me How to Live, Lord


So get rid of every filthy habit and all wicked conduct. Submit to God and accept the word that he plants in your hearts, which is able to save you.
James 1:21 GNT

You gave me a soul, Lord.  You gave me a life.  Now show me how to live it.  How do we go about living this life before us?  Where do we go from here?  

So the Christian commitment comes.  Faith in Christ descends like a dove from heaven.  A transcendent power and presence begins to dwell among us.  The journey ahead takes shape.  I had been going in one direction, now that direction changes.  I ask God where to go, what to do... where does he want me?

Being a Christian is definitely about holding and pursuing a certain mindset.  It's about embracing a different way of life.  That way is described in great detail in the books of the Bible, especially in the letters of the New Testament.  It can be challenging though.  We wonder how to translate the words on the pages into practical application.  

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name -Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

For me it begins with a mindset, and I have to pursue that mindset everyday.  It doesn't just happen.  I have to chase after it.  Prayer becomes absolutely vital to building on that mindset.  And of course that makes sense.  Through prayer we access the power of God to spur changes within us.  

God dealt with the sin in my life.  That was a huge part of the positive transitions in my life and mindset.  I've had to come to believe again and again that God can and will help me to overcome sins in my life.  He grants victory when I put in the daily footwork.

The primary work of Jesus Christ, God, is the legal absolution of my sins.  He legally absolves me from my sins, like I am in a court room, with a list of my crimes being displayed to the judge.  Then enters Jesus Christ, who says to the judge that he will suffer the consequences of those sins instead of me.  

Yet just as important is that I am a new creation in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).  I have been born again (John 3:1-8).  God has declared me "not guilty" in Jesus Christ, innocent, and now gifted with eternal life.  Though my body will die, my spirit will live forever.  Continuing forward, I'm asked to participate in a new plan for my remaining life on Earth though.  Many Christians seem to forget this part.  They think they are saved, and then they go do whatever they want.  Not so.

God asks me to become a servant of his kingdom and his plan on Earth.  He asks me to participate in my own sanctification, or the process of growing out of past sinful patterns.  That is a gradual process for most, taking our entire lives. 

God asks me to serve others, to become the servant of all.  In my past I was a servant of myself.  I did what I wanted, I did what felt good, and I pursued my own goals in life.  Now I look to meet the needs of others.  I look to love and serve those around me.  What does that look like?  I think it means inviting people to relationship with Jesus Christ.  I think it means volunteering and serving in ministries.  I think it means donating money to charity.  I think it means praying for others.  A big part of that process begins with prayer.

Part of my daily walk with God is praying once in the morning and once at night.  I also try to pray an "Our Father" at the mid-point in the day.  Three times a day seems reasonable, that's how Daniel did it (Daniel 6:10).

I had to watch closely for the messages I was receiving in my life.  Certain movies I stopped watching, certain music fell off my playlist.  I actually got rid of my television set altogether.  Too many ads.  Too many sexual commercials, beer ads, tempting food ads, that is a literal assault on my senses, and it triggers a lot of my sinful desires.  And of course so, that's how they make money.

I stopped spending time in certain places around town.  I began to back away from friends that were a bad influence on me.  A tough one was beginning to reform my sexual conduct.  Many, many Christian men struggle with that area of conduct.  It definitely needs to be addressed.  Masturbation, pornography, pre-marital sex...  All of those need to be removed.  

I changed a lot of the messages I was receiving in my life, I didn't just shut off all those sources and replace them with nothing.  I started listening to Christian radio, going to multiple Bible studies, church events, services, and filled my social media feeds with encouraging Christian posts.  The old mindset had to be challenged at every turn, and replaced with the new.

I was also a cigarette smoker.  And I had to deal with that issue as well.  A friend suggested a plan of sorts.  He said set a date 90 days from now.  Everyday from now until then pray once a day for God to remove the compulsion to smoke from you.  Then on the date, quit.  I did that, in conjunction with calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW.  I read some free material they sent me.  I used their website.  I even went to a few Nicotine Anonymous 12 step meetings to learn more about freedom from that addiction.  I also used a nicotine patch for the first two weeks.  In short, I accessed God's power in conjunction with my footwork.  I took practical actions to encourage the desired outcome.  And it worked.  I haven't had to smoke a cancer stick in almost two years now.  Praise God!

One powerful tool for growing in my spirituality is through reading books.  I love reading.  I love audiobooks too.  I put them on my mp3 player and listen while driving or working out.  I tend to look for books to help deal with issues in my life, or just books by Christian leaders that inspire me.  I've learned a ton and it's very enjoyable.  Some of the most powerful books were from authors like C.S. Lewis, Neil Anderson, Minirth & Meier, Stephen Arterburn, Larry Crabb, Bill Wilson, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, and G.K. Chesterton.  But I would suggest exploring Christianbook.com or smile.Amazon.com searching topics that perhaps you struggle with or need guidance in. 

But the biggest change was a small, yet massive adjustment of attitude. 

I had treated God like a wishing well, or an errand boy at times.  "Give me this"  "I want this."  "Lord heal my friend."  "Lord give me this job."  "Lord make a leader."  And I liked to add conditions, and special agreements to my prayers.  The issue was it was almost right.  I was praying a lot.  I was asking for good things.  The goals I were pursuing were certainly reasonable.  But there was a fundamental flaw: I was trying to get God on board with what I was doing.  Whoops.  That isn't how it works.  

My job is to get on board with what God is doing.  That tweak can change a lot.  

I'm very good at defaulting back to my old mindset, of trying to manipulate events into my favor.  Left to my own devices I am a fundamentally selfish human being.  Most of us are.  And when I try to manipulate events and they don't go my way, I get angry.  And upset.  Even depressed.  What helps in those moments is whispering: "Thy will be done, not mine."  

I've got to learn continuous surrender to God's will for my life.  I've still got a lot of rebellion floating around in my soul.  I've always been a defiant type.  In fact I still am quite defiant.  The defiance is just aimed in a new direction.  Instead of defiance toward society, work, responsibility, now my defiance is toward sin, the ways of the world, and the schemes of the evil one.  In so doing, I abide (remain) in the will of God.  

It's all about God's will (Ephesians 5:17).  He's the one running this show called Earth.  He's the CEO, I'm the desk clerk.  He's the General, I'm the foot-soldier.  My emotions flow much better, in serenity, when I recognize God's sovereignty over everything.  It doesn't take long: Thy will be done.  

Philippians 2:14-15 (NIV) Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.

I believe that a sorely neglected part of the Christian life is the act of confession.  The Bible says "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed" (James 5:16a ESV).  Confession to God in prayer is vital (Proverb 28:13).  But so is confession to one another (Acts 19:18).

Why confess?  We as humans tend to lock things inside ourselves.  I know I did, and often still do.  Those hurts, pains, and troubles can eat us up inside.  They rot and fester and eventually we become bitter and broken.  I've found it extremely useful to journal about past issues.  I write things down that I've never really processed, things from the past, and share them with a trusted friend.  It has a way of clearing out wreckage from the past.  It opens me up to the sunlight of the presence of Jesus Christ.  We all have past pains and traumas, have you considered buying a notebook and pen, and writing out some of those pains in total honesty?  It can be a very powerful healing experience.  Ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse your mind and soul of past sorrows.

Ever forget to love your neighbors?  I have.  I tended to resent society in the past.  Sometimes I catch myself falling into that mindset.  I have to keep alert to make sure I'm obeying the central command of Jesus Christ: love others as I have loved you (John 15:12).  I'm a flawed human, I can very quickly become contemptuous, nit-picking the flaws of others, resenting their shortcomings, or downright loathing them.  Instead I try to remind myself, love them.  Just let yourself feel love and affection for those around you.  Let it flow out.  I think sometimes we're afraid to love, because we've been hurt or we've been rejected.  God calls us to love them anyway.  Love is definitely an emotion, it's a warm response inside us.  But it doesn't end there, it continues in actions and warm, kind words spoken.  

 This life can be ugly.  It can be very difficult.  We see death and struggle around us on a daily basis.  We hear the news, and it never seems to be good.  We see people working long hours for little pay.  We see people trapped in addictions, depression, or diseases that they can't break from.  We encounter these struggles ourselves and often on days it's just too much.  We feel broken down.  

We're thirsty for righteousness, for hope, and we're fed a mouth full of dirt.  Someone kicks us while we're down.  Then kicks us again.  It does happen, it certainly does.  One bad thing happens, then two more pile on top.  (Why does it always happen in threes?)  Yet life can also be so beautiful.  Hope sneaks in at the last moment.  When we think we can't go on another day, and all sides are closing in... a sudden faith fills us, and we survive.  God appears in the time fog, and reassures us.  Angels come in the shadows of brokenness and tend our wounds.  

Sins overwhelm us and we feel God could never love one of such intense sins.  Then Jesus reminds us, "You are mine.  I have overcome the world.  I forgive you, I love you."  Like little white flowers dotting the bushes on the sun swept trail ahead, God pours out grace and mercy, mercy after grace, forgiving us, accepting us, tending to us, changing us, and loving us with an everlasting love.  

We reflect then, in the shadow of the valley, asking ourselves, with tears in our eyes, "How is it that He is so good, always?"  It's at those moments when our breath is taken away by His presence, by his response to our turmoil that we know that God is for us, He loves us, and his ways are entirely exceeding of what we could imagine.  Jesus Christ gives us joy.

I love you just as the Father loves me; remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.
11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. 13 The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. 14 And you are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17 This, then, is what I command you: love one another.
18 “If the world hates you, just remember that it has hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, then the world would love you as its own. But I chose you from this world, and you do not belong to it; that is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘Slaves are not greater than their master.’ If people persecuted me, they will persecute you too; if they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours too. 21 But they will do all this to you because you are mine; for they do not know the one who sent me.

-John 15:9-21 (GNT) 

As with all things, we grow and learn and step slowly into the mindset of Jesus Christ.  Through practice, dedication, and dogged determination our spiritual muscles bulge and grow.  We learn how to be human, truly human, as we were meant to be.  We gain freedom from selfishness, and learn to love and connect with others, which is such a deep desire within all of us.  We get to become who we were always meant to be.  Slowly but surely, day in and day out, doing good and loving mercy.  It isn't easy.  But he helps us. We learn to love, we learn to be of service to those who are struggling around us and there are many.  

In the final analysis, as far as happiness and fulfillment in life goes, I've learned in my brief stint in the Christian faith one penultimate truth: You have never truly lived until you've served someone who can do nothing for you in return.  Serving those struggling is one of the greatest blessings you can receive, paradoxically.  It's at those moments when the very Spirit of God awakens feelings in my soul of warmth, connection, serenity, and love.  A temporary fire is struck in the very core of my being, a prelude, a sneak peek at what the future joy of eternal life with the blessed Jesus Christ will be like, in the next world.  The very answer to the deepest yearning of my soul... 

Lord, teach us how to live as you lived.  Teach us love and service. Grant us the mindset of Jesus Christ.  In Jesus name, Amen. 


Related Posts:
  1. The Paradox of Victory through Surrender: Rise Above
  2. Reflections on the Salvation Army Regeneration Conference
  3. How to trigger a Great Awakening
  4. You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of the Architect of Reality
  5. Love Others: The Second Great Command
  6. Sex, Cuisine, and Television: Overcoming the World...
  7. What is the matrix?
  8. Love God: The First Great Command
  9. Logic, History, Statistics, & Astronomy: Interdisciplinary Approach to the Truth Claims of Christianity
  10. What is the will of God?