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With the advent of the internet, blogging, and social networking, much of humanity now has the ability to share their thoughts and feelings almost instantly. That is not news to most of us.
On a humorous and slightly sarcastic note, someone wrote, “Just because you have an internet connection doesn’t mean that you have anything important to say”. I suppose “important” is in the mind of the writer, and not always the reader. I’ll leave that statement alone.
I find myself in a season of life where the words are not coming easily or clearly. There are different kinds of concerns on different fronts. There is instability from the human perspective. I am wondering about the future of certain people and not sure what to think or say.
I am purposely not going into details to try to explain things, because sometimes the words just don’t come. I am learning not to be bothered by that. If you know me, you may know some of what I am talking about, but I am not really looking for people to understand me. Please don’t feel that you need to respond.
It is a strange sensation for us humans to feel things very deeply, but not be able to clearly understand those feelings, or be able to communicate them. If we are fortunate enough to gain some clarity of thought, we then have the challenge of trying to express clearly what we are thinking, and then having the right person to share those thoughts with.
When we are struggling with the issues of life, though there can be people that are sympathetic, some dear people actually make life a bit harder for us. They try too hard to fix things. They give off the cuff advice without thinking. They offer up a quick “prayer of faith” that is more confusing than healing. We can appreciate such intentions, but sometimes we find that we avoid such help.
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Filed under: Blogs
, Fellowship With God
, God's Love
, God's Will
, Good Intentions
, Promises Of God
, Self Awareness
, Spiritual Joy
Some thoughts for fellow followers of Jesus…
The ten second sound bite version of what I am writing is this: If you blew it, and have a mess on your hands, let God fix it. You thought you could be in control and do things your own way, and now you have a mess. In your flesh, you made a mess. What makes you think that in your flesh, you can fix it? Better to walk in the Spirit like you should have to begin with. Walk in the Spirit, and let God fix it.
The longer version of the same story line is as follows…
Sin is a nasty thing. It promises much, and delivers little. The consequences are always bigger than the gratification. It never seems as bad as it really is…until later.
We get used to sinning. We minimize it. We get de-sensitized to it. We agree in our heads that something is wrong, but we do it anyway, intending to stop.
There are sins of commission: we do things that we know are wrong.
There are sins of omission: we don’t do things we know that we should.
The sin in a Christian’s life can run the gamut of not reading your Bible (dumb…you need God’s Word, heart, and direction) to something much more obvious, like substance abuse or sexual immorality. We can be committing little sins, like being disagreeable, or we can be committing bigger sins, such as being violent and a striker. A sin of omission might be that you don’t think that church attendance is important, and eventually find yourself isolated, alone, unchallenged, un-encouraged, etc. There are numerous examples of sins of commission and omission.
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Filed under: Christianity
, Decision Making
, Dying To Self
, God's Will
, Good Intentions
, Self Awareness
, Spirit Filled Life
, Spiritual Blindness
, Spiritual Growth
Question: “Did God create evil?”
Editor’s note- This question was asked during our recent Sunday morning gathering. Each week, we have a question and answer time after the sermon. I didn’t feel that I could explain well the answer to this question. I have copied an article by Ravi Zacharias, who answers the question well.
Answer: At first it might seem that if God created all things, then evil must have been created by God. However, evil is not a “thing” like a rock or electricity. You cannot have a jar of evil. Evil has no existence of its own; it is really the absence of good. For example, holes are real but they only exist in something else. We call the absence of dirt a hole, but it cannot be separated from the dirt. So when God created, it is true that all He created was good. One of the good things God made was creatures who had the freedom to choose good. In order to have a real choice, God had to allow there to be something besides good to choose. So, God allowed these free angels and humans to choose good or reject good (evil). When a bad relationship exists between two good things we call that evil, but it does not become a “thing” that required God to create it.
Perhaps a further illustration will help. If a person is asked, “Does cold exist?” the answer would likely be “yes.” However, this is incorrect. Cold does not exist. Cold is the absence of heat. Similarly, darkness does not exist; it is the absence of light. Evil is the absence of good, or better, evil is the absence of God. God did not have to create evil, but rather only allow for the absence of good.
God did not create evil, but He does allow evil. If God had not allowed for the possibility of evil, both mankind and angels would be serving God out of obligation, not choice. He did not want “robots” that simply did what He wanted them to do because of their “programming.” God allowed for the possibility of evil so that we could genuinely have a free will and choose whether or not we wanted to serve Him.
As finite human beings, we can never fully understand an infinite God (Romans 11:33-34). Sometimes we think we understand why God is doing something, only to find out later that it was for a different purpose than we originally thought. God looks at things from a holy, eternal perspective. We look at things from a sinful, earthly, and temporal perspective. Why did God put man on earth knowing that Adam and Eve would sin and therefore bring evil, death, and suffering on all mankind? Why didn’t He just create us all and leave us in heaven where we would be perfect and without suffering? These questions cannot be adequately answered this side of eternity. What we can know is whatever God does is holy and perfect and ultimately will glorify Him. God allowed for the possibility of evil in order to give us a true choice in regards to whether we worship Him. God did not create evil, but He allowed it. If He had not allowed evil, we would be worshiping Him out of obligation, not by a choice of our own will.
Recommended Resource: Deliver Us from Evil: Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture by Ravi Zacharias.
My friend Roby Duke (now with Jesus) once said this to a group of song writers: “Your inspiration is perfect, but your songwriting needs work”.
We can be wonderfully inspired to express ourselves, but not quite have the ability, time, or energy to rightly say what we are trying to say. Perhaps the inspiration is fighting against good common sense that would tell us to slow down and think it through. Now is such a moment for me. The inspiration is perfect. I am rushing ahead. I hope this comes out O.K.
QUESTION: “It is easy to live vicariously through others, but is that really living?”
Let’s start with one of many definitions for the word “vicarious”.
“Felt or enjoyed through imagined participation in the experience of others”: a vicarious thrill.
There is a place for such experience in moderation, but our world is making it increasingly easy for people to feel emotions that don’t have any corresponding personal experience.
We can dial up, Google, Net Flix, read, browse, or Pay Per View our way to any emotion we want, without ever having to actually “do” something that requires dedication, effort, commitment, or faith.
If there was ever a generation that could become addicted to “feeling without doing”, that generation is now.
One might ask what the danger or problem is with living vicariously through the great accomplishments of others. Some of that might be O.K., in that it might inspire us to aspire to do great things. Plus, it certainly feels good to feel good. So what’s the problem?
The problem is this: That kind of living, if it becomes the habitual lifestyle of a person, does nothing to produce in them the quality traits needed to actually enjoy those emotions from first hand accomplishment.
I understand that some of the things that “thrill” us are only for a few to actually experience. We can’t all go out and win gold medals, climb Mt. Everest, or do world tours singing about changing the world.
But I wonder, if vicarious living comes to satisfy us to the point that we don’t pursue what we COULD BE DOING, then has it gone too far? I say “yes”: then it has gone to far.
So….what is it that you are actually supposed to be doing?
I submit to you that actually desiring, struggling, sacrificing, and dedicating one’s self on a personal level is far more important than taking the vicarious route of simply feeling the goose bumps from someone else’s accomplishment. The satisfaction that comes from personal accomplishment is much more valuable than enjoying someone else’s “bigger than life” accomplishment.
Finally, if you are a follower of Jesus, then He wants to live through you. Your part is to surrender, seek His will, believe His promises, walk in holiness by His power, and take small and big steps of faith in responding to what He wants to do through you.
That process has been the most satisfying part of my life, whenever I have actually gotten out of the way long enough for it to happen. The small victories of having my life so bound up in His life have been the most satisfying experiences of my life. My experiences may not compare to some of the great accomplishments of others, but they don’t need to. They are my experiences with God, and I can have first hand satisfaction from them.
Rich Mullins said it well: “Jesus, write me into Your story…whisper it to me.”
Filed under: Decision Making
, Dying To Self
, Fellowship With God
, God's Will
, Good Intentions
, Spirit Filled Life
When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God dried up the Jordan for them, and they crossed over on dry land.
God then told them to set up Memorial Stones in Gilgal, so that when their children asked about those stones, they would tell their story of God’s faithfulness to them.
I want to share some of my story regarding my experiences in Mexico. Some of you have heard this a few times. If that is the case, skip forward to the latest photo album, courtesy of Pastor Sam Scotti, of Genesis in Upland. Sam has posted images of our latest Leadership Conference. Thanks Sam.
The images are under the “Vizcaino Conference 2008″ folder and if you double click on the photos they will enlarge.
I was on staff at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa from 1989-1991. During that time, I was singing in a band called The Mirrors. The Iron Curtain fell, and Eastern Europe opened up to the West. We traveled with Brian Broderson (then pastor of CC Vista, CA) to Yugoslavia and Hungary, and sang and shared about Jesus. Lots of young people got saved, and churches were birthed. Read more »
Can you dig it? That is a very “old school” phrase that people used back in the ’60′s and ’70′s. I don’t know about that personally. I read about it in a modern American history book.
Actually, I did live during that time, but I never used that phrase. I never thought it sounded as cool as everyone thought it did.
In 2 Kings, God told some people to “dig it”.
2 Kings 3:15, 16 (Elisha said)…But now bring me a musician.” Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him. 16And he said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’
Take a few minutes and read that great account found in 2 Kings 3, then come back and read this article.
You can find 2 Kings 3 here:
God did an amazing work for those people that day.
He not only brought them water, but He encouraged them emotionally and spiritually through this miracle, and then used the miracle to fool their enemies into defeat.
God did His part, but only after the people did their part. They could have come up with many reasons to not dig those ditches.
1. They were extremely tired and thirsty, and didn’t have the energy.
2. They were going into battle the next day, and needed to save their strength.
3. It didn’t make sense to dig ditches. Why couldn’t God just “make it better”?
4. It wasn’t part of their plan, and that wasn’t what they were there for.
But, they obeyed, and were blessed according to their act of faith.
Small trenches would have brought a small blessing. Larger trenches brought greater blessings. God blessed them way beyond their expectations.
All they did was dig holes. Not too glamorous or impressive. But God blessed their acts of obedience.
What are the very real needs in your life? What are the trenches that God is asking you to dig? Prayer? Forgiveness? Having a quiet heart? Reading God’s Word? What reasons might you be giving for not doing your part?
Many times, we believe we have legitimate reasons for not obeying God. Imagine how it would have turned out for these people if they refused to follow God’s instructions.
I’d love to hear from some of you about the trenches that you have dug, and how God has filled you with His blessings.
If you are a Christian, you have at some point in your life experienced a “holy frustration”. You are wanting something good, something Biblical, and something that is inherently a blessed thing from God. It may be a better job, marriage, or a new ministry whereby you can serve the Lord.
You have good intentions, and what you want isn’t a bad thing; in fact it’s a good thing, but the frustration is that God doesn’t seem to be giving you the opportunity to experience that good thing.
I call that a “Holy Frustration”.
Frustration can lead to us blame people for our lack of opportunities and fulfillment. We blame society, the people in our churches, the pastor, our parents, our kids, or our spouses. We feel that others are holding us back from a good and godly thing.
When God explained how He would bring the newly freed Israelites into the Promised Land, He told them that it would be gradual, and that things would happen in stages.
Exodus 23:27-30 “I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you. 29I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. 30Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land.”
God wouldn’t drive the people out of the land all at once. That would leave the land uninhabited, and wild beasts would multiply, and create a different kind of problem for the time when the Israelites would eventually come to receive God’s blessing for them.
They needed to grow numerically in order to receive the blessing. God would create the opportunity for them, but they needed to be ready for it. If God drove out the inhabitants too soon, that vacuum would create a new problem for the Israelites.
The Israelites needed to “increase”, in order to have the ability to receive the blessing. Their numeric growth would be the result of their obedience to God.
Just before this promise to drive out the inhabitants of the land, God had instructed them about how to live.
Exodus 23:24-26 “You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars. 25“So you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you. 26No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.”
God would take away sickness, and no one would miscarry. They would grow. They would increase.
I believe that the application for us is this: We can have “Holy Frustrations” because we have a desire for something good and godly, but that opportunity is not coming our way. There may be lots of reasons for that, but consider this one reason:
What if you aren’t ready to receive that blessing? What if there is still a lot of growth that needs to happen in your character? What if you aren’t mature enough? What if you aren’t as ready as you think you are?
You may be wondering why God isn’t creating that opportunity for you.
(He might be mercifully saving you from a lot of pain and grief.)
God is probably wondering why you aren’t getting ready for it.
(As if God wondered!)
Having a godly desire is only the beginning of the process.
There also needs to be a consecration of self in order that the heart and life might be prepared for the responsibilities of that blessing that God has for you.
Getting married is designed by God to be a blessing. Getting married before you are mature enough often turns out to be a disaster. The same is true for ministry, job advancement, friendships, having kids, and buying a house.
Desiring a good thing is just the beginning of a holy process. Growing into that good thing is a non-negotiable. Maturity and readiness is mandatory, if the blessing is to be enjoyed. Otherwise, the blessing becomes a burden.
If you are experiencing a “Holy Frustration”, ask God to show you how you might not yet be ready. Don’t rush the process, and don’t desire the blessing more than you desire the One Who brings the blessing.
That is a sad statement, but it is true. I’m not real happy about it being true, but that’s the truth: I used to hate Christmas. It’s been many years since that dark season of life, but I don’t forget how sad it used to be for me. Since the unforgiving multitudes aren’t reading this blog, I thought it might be safe to share that little secret with my friends.
Christmas used to be, for me, like walking into a huge surprise pop quiz, except that it wasn’t a quiz, it was your final grade for the class. No, it was bigger than that. It was a public statement about who you really were, what you were really like. It revealed your heart, which in different seasons of life, could be quite discouraging.
Christmas was a time of seeing how everyone else lived. It was a time of seeing people who were full of joy, and who were lighthearted. A time of noticing thoughtfulness, sensitivity, loving planning, and selflessness. Gifts were given that hadn’t been picked up at the last minute, but that had been lovingly searched for. Surprised faces and warm laughter told stories of thoughtful loved ones who had purchased the gift that was “just right”.
Christmas was a time of seeing how life ought to be. Even though the day was on the calendar, the total sum of what Christmas meant always caught me unprepared. It was a day that “measured” me. I used to hate Christmas.
I clearly remember those somber days. I am blessed to say that in these days, I love Christmas. I am aware of the “then”, and aware of the “now”, but the in between time is a difficult to quantify.
By God’s grace, a huge change has taken place. It has been gradual, and almost imperceptible on a day by day basis. There was nothing that happened overnight, but something that was slowly happening every day. There was no huge one time revelation, but a thousand small ones. There wasn’t a single, momentous inner resolution towards a total life change, but a daily decision to follow Jesus. There was no self-reformation, but a conforming that came by God’s hand upon a hurting heart.
Two verses illustrate this work that God has done in me…
Philippians 2:13 “…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
Romans 8:29a “…For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…”
When a person surrenders to Jesus, God begins to work in that surrendered heart. He creates His will in that heart. He puts a heavenly desire in that heart. That act of God doesn’t remove a person’s will, but now a new will and desire is there. A higher will for better things.
Along with that new heavenly desire is the ability to follow God’s will, to “do” it. So that person now has the desires of God in his/her heart, along with the ability to begin to follow through in that direction.
What then, is God’s desire for that person? God’s desire is to conform that person’s life to the image of His Son. That means that God helps that person to become more like Jesus, “full of grace and truth”, and so much more. Besides forgiveness, there is healing and wholeness that takes place in the soul.
Once a person surrenders to Jesus, the only responsibility that they have is to keep surrendering to Jesus. God gives both the desire and ability to do that. The result is a wonderfully changed life.
I didn’t change my life, God did. I may have been able to change my behavior, or my habits, or my language, but I could never change “what” I was. I could never change the deep stuff of the soul. And I certainly never could conform myself to “the image of His Son”. God did that. God continues to do that.
What has been the result? Well, I like Christmas. It doesn’t measure me any more. It gives me an opportunity to express my love for people, without fear of failure. It doesn’t dictate to me what kind of person I am. Whether I have a “good” Christmas or not, they are all good, because life is good. Life is no longer based upon events, performance, or even feelings. There is an under girding that doesn’t fluctuate with emotions. There is a stability that is other worldly. There is now a life that is sustained, encouraged, and comforted based upon God, and His love for me.
Christmas speaks to me of God’s love for me. Jesus stepped into my world, and brought Heaven to me. Christmas speaks to me of that unsearchable but very knowable truth. Emmanuel. God is with us.
May you all have a blessed Christmas season. Love to you all.