Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

From a Scale to a Catapult

"In this world you will have trouble."

Jesus said this in John chapter 16 and it is most certainly true.  We have had trouble ourselves and know that what Jesus said is true via our experiences.  We see cancer and other diseases, we see people losing jobs, we see kids bullied in school, we see all kinds of trouble in this world.  From ISIS to an ACL tear we know that trouble exists.

"And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.  Suppose one of you want so build a tower.  Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?"  Luke 14:27-28

Jesus said that we must count the cost of following Him.  He never promised Christians an easy life.  If you've ever tried to live out your faith you know that this is true: there is a cost for being a follower of Jesus.

That all being said, we must never forget all the benefits of belonging to God's family.

"Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits."  Psalm 103:2

Have you ever gotten stuck thinking about the cost of following Jesus and the troubles of the world?  Have you ever been ridiculed for your beliefs and then dwelt on how hard it is to be a Christian in today's world?  Have you ever read the news and been overwhelmed by the tragedies of our world?  If so, may I suggest that we must never forget all the benefits of belonging to God.

Here are a few examples of the benefits of God that King David gave in Psalm 103: redemption from sin, everlasting and abounding love as high as the heavens, gentle compassion, desires satisfied with good things, righteousness and justice for the oppressed, graciousness, and complete forgiveness of sins.

Those are some great benefits.

The Apostle Paul said it this way:

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."  Romans 8:18

In fact, the benefits of God are great here and now in this present life; and the benefits of God will be unending and perfect in the life to come.  The benefits of God are staggering.

Have you ever seen people weigh pros and cons on a scale?  Perhaps they took checker pieces and put them on either the pro or con side of the balance scale to "weigh" their decision.  Well, if we did this with the decision to follow or not to follow Christ the result would be humorous.  If we "weighed" our decision and put as much as we could think of on the con side, the pro side would still turn that balance scale into a catapult.  The benefits of Jesus far outweigh the cost of following Him.

Are there costs to being a Christian?  Yes.  Is there trouble all around us in the world?  Absolutely.  But the benefits of God far exceed anything.  So, today try this: list the benefits of God like David did in Psalm 103.

"Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits" today.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

5 Things That Blow My Mind

I love to think, or rather try to think, about things that blow my mind about God.  I find this exercise insanely rewarding and worshipful.  While I'm never left, or perhaps rarely left, with answers from this exercise, I'm always left feeling a sense of awe.

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."  A. W. Tozer.

Tozer wrote this in a book that expanded my view of God, The Knowledge of the Holy.  Ever since I read that and Knowing God by J. I. Packer I've been in love with expanding my view of God.  My pursuit is to take God out of the box I've often place Him into in my mind and expand my view of God to a point closer to His real enormity therefore magnifying Him.  Pastor John Piper says we do not magnify God like a microscope but instead like a telescope.  A microscope take small things like cells and makes them look larger than they really are; a telescope takes large things like stars and makes them look a little bigger and therefore closer to the size they really are, but obviously incredibly smaller than they really are.

Christians, we must have our mind blown when thinking of who God is.  If we can completely understand God in our mind then the God in our mind is an idol and not the great unfathomable God of the universe.

Below are five things that blow my mind about God.

1) His Infinite Age
"... you are from all eternity." Psalm 93:2b

We are eternal beings in one direction.  You and I had a beginning but we will not have an end.  Whether in Heaven or in Hell we will exist forever.  God is eternal in both directions.  He has always existed and will always exist.

My wife put it this way and it blew my mind, "Even in eternity God will always be infinitely older than us."  Just try thinking about that.

2) God's Infinite Size
I've been to the Rocky Mountains and marveled at their size.  God is much larger.  As the old song says, "He's got the whole world in His hands."

"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens?" Isaiah 40:12

God holds the universe in the breadth of His hand... wow!

3) His Infinite Knowledge
"Great is our Lord and mighty in power,
His understanding knows no limit." Psalm 147:5

The Bible says God knows everything, even the number of hairs on my head or the number of grains of sand in all the beaches of earth.  Tozer said, "Because God knows all things perfectly, He knows no thing better than any other thing, but all things equally well.  He never discovers anything, He is never surprised, never amazed."

4) God is Outside of Time.
God is neither in the past nor the present.  God is always in the present, but not in the way that we think of being in the present.  God is not confined by time.  C. S. Lewis described it as the "unbounded now".  God is not confined by time, so ancient Egypt and my next thought are both now to Him.  Time does not age God nor does it mature Him because He has always existed and has always been as perfect as He is now.

5) This God Loves Me
"When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?" Psalm 8:2-4

"But God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

God is mindblowingly, infinitely amazing and impossible to fully understand, yet He loves us and He took the initiative to love us first.  We Christians must never find God normal or His love for us pedestrian.

So, think about these five things and/or others and expand your view of God.  Magnify Him like a telescope and discover how worshipful it is.  You will find yourself trembling in awe and tingling with a deepened sense of love.  Have your mind blown by God's holiness today.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

This Isn't a Debate

I watched an undercover video today that sickened me.  In the video a Planned Parenthood doctor is filmed talking about harvesting the body parts of babies in order to sell them.  She speaks with such ease about how doctors get livers, legs, heads and other parts from children being aborted. The video is terrifying and utterly disgusting but one that I think you should watch, so follow this link and click on the video.

When are we going to stop treating abortion like a debate?  When are we going to stop viewing the pro-life versus pro-choice movements as two equals?  When are we going to look at this the same way that slavery was eventually viewed?  When are we going to look back and be in horror that one human could do that to another?

In 2012 there were an estimated 40-50 million abortions worldwide (source). In 2008 there were 1,200,000 abortions performed in the United States and 98% of them were done for elective reasons.  In my state of Iowa in 2008 there were 134,730 babies aborted and only 4 of those procedures were done because the mother was in danger. (Source)

When are we going to stop thinking that this is a debate?

This isn't a debate!

Christians, this is an affront to God.  This is a grave sin and we can't keep talking like it's a debate.  We can't keep offering pro-choice positions like they're simply opinions.  There is not a reasonable person in the world that has a pro-slavery "opinion" and if someone did post on Facebook that they were pro-slavery we would know they were crazy instantly.  Abortion for elective purposes is no different.  I'm against aborting a baby for any reason, but I'll allow that there is room for debate when the mother's life is in jeopardy, but the killing of babies for convenience sake is morally wrong without any debate.

So, what do we do?

First, stop treating this like a debate.  If you are pro-life you have the moral high ground in the same way someone who is anti-murder or an abolitionist does.  Don't buy into the faulty logic that every discussion involves two equal ideas.  Some ideas are wrong.

Second, we must love women who have had an abortion.  Abortion is wrong but having one's baby aborted does not label a woman.  Women who have had abortions, and sadly there are some in my own family who have, are not bad people.  There probably were many reasons that she felt that an abortion made sense.  While she was wrong to have had her baby's life ended, we must not ruin the life of another by dehumanizing her.  Love these women because economical, social, relational and all other sorts of pressures may have driven her to that point and she needs mercy from that... mercy that you can help extend.

Third, we must pray for and advocate for the end of abortion.  Like William Wilberforce who prayed and advocated for decades for England to end the slave trade, we too must be persistent.  This doesn't mean that we must be vigilantes.  We must work like Wilberforce did within the systems of government and the law to end abortion.  This is done primarily through prayer.  It may also be by supporting organizations that offer women in difficult situations alternatives to abortions.  It could be by adopting.  It can be done by voting.  There are many ways to end abortion and we must do something.

This is not a debate.  Killing babies is wrong and we cannot let it continue by standing idly by.  Pray for the end of abortion and stop treating it like a debate today.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

God Honoring Holidays

In the Old Testament God commanded the Israelites to observe certain holidays.  They had feasts and other days of observance that God commanded and that Jews observe to this day.

I am not Jewish and I do not celebrate most of the Old Testament feasts and holidays, but I do celebrate holidays.  Which got me to thinking, do my holidays honor God?  Now, the holidays created explicitly by God obviously were designed to honor Him and some of the holidays I observe are not designed with the singular purpose of honoring God, but I should honor God in my holidays.

So, how can the holidays I observe honor God?  What are some pitfalls to honoring God on holidays?  In an effort to answer these questions I went through the calendar and highlighted ways to honor God and pitfalls to achieving that end on the major holidays.

New Year's Eve and Day- I can honor God by thanking Him for the previous year and making resolutions that aim to make my next year more glorifying to Him than the previous year was.  The pitfall I need to avoid is nostalgia.  The Christian life is enhanced by remembering but only if remembering gives us strength for today and hope for tomorrow.  Getting stuck in the past is not a good idea.

Easter- This one is designed to magnify Christ.  It should be easy to remember the crucifixion and resurrection and the Gospel.  We must glorify God immensely on this holy day.  The pitfall here is becoming too familiar with the victory of Easter.  The Easter story is amazing and let's never become bored with it.

Independence Day- I can glorify God by thanking Him for His providence in my life in having me be born in a free country like America.  I can pray for my country and work for the good of it.  The pitfalls I need to avoid are many on this holiday.  We must not turn a healthy dose of patriotism into a deadly cocktail of idolatry.  Don't get me wrong, I am patriotic but we must never make the United States into a god.  When we start putting our Founding Fathers on an Apostolic level or begin to believe that America has somehow absorbed all the promises of Old Testament Israel we've gone off the deep end.

Thanksgiving Day- God commands that we be thankful and this holiday is all about that.  On Thanksgiving we should feast and taste God's goodness in our life.  Take time to name some of the many reasons you have to be thankful.  Spend time with the only things going to heaven with you... the people around you.  The pitfall of Thanksgiving is the stress of preparing and cleaning up after the feast.  Jesus' friend Martha felt this stress and we often do, too.  Help one another out with the prep and clean up.  And perhaps sit down and just enjoy your company while they're with you.

Christmas- The incarnation of Jesus is a spectacular mystery.  Christmas creates such wonder in us and this wonder honors God greatly.  On Christmas give good gifts to one another generously, create lasting memories, attend church and worship God.  Christmas is built for the Church to magnify God.  The obvious pitfall of Christmas is commercialism.  We feel the need to give competitively rather than generously.  We put ourselves in debt to buy things that we feel will bring ourselves or others lasting joy when Christmas is the story of how God gave us lasting joy in the bundle of joy named Jesus.

Honoring God on our holidays is important.  I've included some brief descriptions of ways to honor God on major holidays, but you should think this through for yourself.  All of our holidays can and should be for God; from Labor Day to Valentine's Day our holidays can serve as a reminder that God is so good.

The basic recipe for honoring God on a holiday is to enjoy His gifts immensely without being owned by His gifts.  Enjoy food, family, games, gifts and fireworks; but don't let them own you so that your pursuit of them is greater than your pursuit of God.

Before your next holiday think of ways to honor God, today.