05 February 2010

Who’s Really Holding Back?

I recently went to a men's conference and was blessed to have been taught by both Jon Courson and Greg Laurie. I'm still trying to figure out which message ministered to me more, and am not sure if I'll ever know. [note: The messages can be downloaded HERE.]

While at the event, I spent $20.00 and purchased a book written by Greg Laurie titled, "The Greatest Stories Ever Told – Old Testament Vols. I-III". I did not have to go too far before God laid something before me that inspired me to expand on those thoughts here. I give Greg Laurie total credit for the inspiration behind this devotional… and he did not even hug me like Jon did!

People have lived and died; civilizations have thrived and then been lost to history because they seek something "more". What that 'more' is, they do not know. That's why they seek it. This makes perfect sense, in a dog chasing his tail, or an insane man running circles around the inside of a rubber-walled room after having been told to go sit in the corner ~ kind of way. They seek the more based in a complete lack of satisfaction of where they are in life. or better yet, how they feel. OR, that they feel very simply, that in spite of the fact that everything is going quite well in their lives, that there must surely be something more or better.
As a human being, thriving to do something more or better is an admirable quality. Necessity is the mother of invention. Where I came from they called that Yankee Ingenuity. Some would argue that it is not necessity that inspires us to do more or better, but rather laziness. A good friend of mine likes to live his life by 'tag lines'. One he often uses is 'if it doesn't stink, stir it!", and has earned a suitable reputation for the same. Another tag line he uses is this: "It's a thin line between hobby and obsession (or mental illness)." The latter line is more apropos for our discussion, and he's absolutely right.

It is not that we seek to know more or to find what is 'missing' in our lives. God has designed us human beings with an innate desire to know Him, in spite of the fact that He seems so 'mysterious' to so many. It is quite more the WHY we seek the more or the missing in our lives that will eventually define us all.

I can tell you that there has never been a society in recorded history that has not had religion, or a god. Every culture known to man has worshipped or sought to please a god or a supreme being or a creator, whatever you they may have chosen to call him/it. And for some cultures it drove them to self destruction. The Mayans may be the finest example of this that we know of. Their cities were huge. Their science was advanced, their technology, mathematics and architecture were way beyond their years. And yet they were obsessed with pleasing a god they did not know, and because they did not know him, they could not reach him spiritually. They were dissatisfied. The grumbled against god and eventually themselves.

Why was this? To me it seems simple. They knew there had to be a 'god'. Someone ultimately powerful had to be the creating force behind the world that they knew. And remember, what they know of it was very small. They know that 'god' had to have created the heavens, and the animals. But because they were not feeling a "connection with god", they felt something that so many other people still feel today. If God is this good, and God is this powerful, and God can do anything He wants, and my life still stinks this bad, than he MUST be holding something back from me.

That mind-set will not only kill you. It has already killed nations.

Don't take my word for it. Take the word of scripture as proof. God is not holding anything back that would prevent you from running into His loving arms right this very minute. We are told that "No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly." No good thing. God is not holding back in any way, the things if righteousness and salvation from you.

The 'more' or better that you are looking for is a natural thing. God created us perfect, meaning complete. When sin entered in because Eve was deceived and believed a lie, and Adam decided just simply to go for it, in spite of the fact that he knew better, our intimate relationship with God was broken. Because of that every man, woman and child since have been trying to fill that void in their lives with something. Some choose drugs, alcohol or lust. Others choose religion or faith, but are lost in the incredibly thick jungle of false teachers and religions. And when that peace that surpasses all understanding does not come, they simply give up and curse God. But it is not God's fault.

The 'more' and 'better' that we are looking for is a restored relationship with our Creator. He is holding nothing back. Why would He hold back a secret now, after He gave His Son to die in our place? Think about that one for a while you seekers of 'more' and 'better'. Oh, what tangled webs we weave as we pretend to seek God, and loose our souls in the labyrinth of our own excuses and weaknesses.

Shed your human nature that seeks thrills and acceptance, and die to self so that God might live in you. God held nothing back to prevent you from coming to Him. What are you holding on to that's preventing you from going?

04 February 2010

Exclusive/Absolute = Prejudice/Intolerance?

In a devotional last week I used the 'polarizing' to introduce some topics that seemingly had nothing in common. What they did have in common however was the fact that when brought to conversation, they almost immediately divide people into camps of opposite extremes. Some topics just seem to have no middle ground, or what little middle ground there is seems to be a minefield! With Christianity and our love for Jesus, this too seems to be one on that list of polarizing topics.

How many of us have rules that at family gatherings that we do not discuss politics and religion? I personally do not have such a rule (IMHO no Christian should), but I do know of one man who does make this his rule, in spite of the fact that he is a sitting board member of his local church that he has been attending for 60 plus years.

This is unfortunate. This being past the 'age of enlightenment', one would think that being able to discuss any topic, regardless of its polarization factor, would be a staple of our society. The search for the real truth, regardless of your theories or points of view should be paramount to the discussion. This is what science and debate are founded on; present a theses or point of view, discuss the pros, cons, and dissenting opinions, put them to the test and see if they hold up to reason, logic or repeatable fact, and walk away knowing more than when the discussion started. But above all, be able to do it all peaceably. Agree to disagree is what we say. If we are loving people, if we disagree, this is how it must end.

Jesus is polarizing. Mentioning that you are a follower can immediately bring out the best or the worst in people. Be it personal conviction, or personal rejection, responses are very often quick and ugly. One of the issues that we as Christians face in the discussion of our faith is the fact that 'we are elitists'. We are elitists because we bask in our own acceptance by God, that we feel 'special', that will go to heaven, and all those who do not believe what we believe are not accepted by God, and that they will not go to heaven. I humbly confess that all this is true. Joy in the Lord, in the fact that we are forgiven, is often times looked upon as pride. It is not. It is simple thanks that we are forgiven, and this should bring joy. Another point that we need to make clear is that exclusivity does not equal prejudice.

Jesus said, "I am the Way the Truth and the Life, and no man comes to the Father except through me". Anyone who has ever taken Logic 101 can see that this statement is exclusive. Jesus is saying He is the One and only way to get to heaven. If this is true, and all Christians must believe this, that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven (…this leaves Oprah et al out…). The problem is that the media and those who argue against Jesus will refer to this as elitist exclusivity. But they are looking at it from the point of view of being outside the group, as if they can never be IN the group. For those who passed their logic 101 class, to understand this statement as exclusive, is to walk away beaten and refuse to investigate the case.
Exclusive as used by those who tell the world that Christians are intolerant because they are exclusive are using the word as a verb. In its verb form exclusive means,
  1. not admitting of something else; incompatible: mutually exclusive plans of action.
  2. omitting from consideration or account (often fol. by of): a profit of ten percent, exclusive of taxes.
  3. limited to the object or objects designated: exclusive attention to business.
  4. shutting out all others from a part or share: an exclusive right to film the novel.
But Christians use the term as a noun:
  1. as in Journalism. a piece of news, or the reporting of a piece of news, obtained by a newspaper or other news organization, along with the privilege of using it first.
  2. an exclusive right or privilege: to have an exclusive on providing fuel oil to the area.
Yes, Christianity has an exclusive on how to get to heaven, but neither Jesus or Christianity is blocking anyone from getting there! The only thing that does block the way, is the heart of the man that rejects Him. Anti-Christian buzz-words like exclusivity or dogma, absolutism, or elitism do not hold the weight of their own definitions when compared to the scripture that Christians profess. Exclusivity is NOT intolerance or prejudice and is an offense to Christianity itself to say so. The God that stated He is (IS not was…) the Way the Truth and the Life, and that no man gets to the Father except through Him, is the same who:
2 Peter 3:9, "… is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."
Meaning this message is addressed to sinners…
2 Corinthians 5:15 "…died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again."
"All" is an indication that this message is for ALL people, just like it says. No exclusivity or prejudice here.
Romans 5:6 "…died for the ungodly."
The ungodly are those who have rejected God and are living in opposition to Him, yet, He dies for them as well.
Romans 5:8 "… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Again, Jesus died for sinners, not just believers.
Romans 6:10 "…died to sin once for all"
What does "ALL" not include? Is there any exclusivity in 'All'?
1 Corinthians 15:3 "…died for our sins according to the Scriptures"
It's no secret, Jesus died for all sinners, and the door is still open.
And finally, John 3:16-17:
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

As so many before me have more eloquently stated, Jesus did not die for a select few. Calvinists, sorry, but Jesus did not die just for His elect, or for those who chose Him, or any group over another. He does for ALL. He dies for the WORLD. Mohammad did not die as an atoning sacrifice for your sins, and neither did Buddha or Confucius, or Tsun-Tzu, or Joseph Smith, or Peter Piper or Peter Pan. Jesus did, and because He did He earned that place of exclusivity in spite of the fact that this was a designed plan all along.

Political correctness is working its way quickly towards being the death knell for Christianity in America. It is a politically incorrect to preach about Jesus in public, and outright illegal to preach against a homosexual lifestyle even from the pulpit. Now it is a hate crime to say that abortion doctors are murders and that men that have 'intimate relations' with other men is evil or dread to society. But as my close friend and confidant Duane Smith stated so eloquently, "…yet it is OK for a Muslim to say that all Infidels must die, but it's a crime for me to say that homosexuality is a sin". Sadly, the answer is yes.

So let me get this straight: Christians are horrible, hate-filled people, and Christianity in general a scurge on humanity because it says Jesus is the only way to heaven, and Islam is a religion of peace in spite of the unmistakable fact that they think getting to heaven is more easily accomplished by blowing yourself to bits as long as you take a few Jews or Christians (Infidels) with you?? Seems to me we've got things a little bit backwards…

Religion is polarizing. There really is just no other way to say it. And for those who brave into the forbidden realm of discussing religion in a public setting, beware, the road to recovery can be long and painful. But the results may be eternal.