GOD IS WITH US! (. . . and deserves introduction)

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me . . .” – Matthew 11:29

“Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” – Psalm 55:22

“. . . To those who have no might He increases strength.” – Isaiah 40:24

“. . . the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10

God is with us always! One of the many phrases I live by is ‘Head Up, Pride Down,’ which I use to remind me to keep my eyes ahead, focused on God and away from myself, and to always remember that my success is not my own. But there’s a part of this that’s missing. It doesn’t recognize the fact that our God is not only a god of guidance, but also a god of counsel.

Basically, I’ve added onto my life-phrase. I’ve recognized that God is with us always – not only ahead, but also beside! I have recognized that no struggle will be overcome in solitude. I’ve recognized He is forever beside us, and one end of our burden can be placed on His shoulder. Not only does our God lead us into battle, He fights with us in the trenches!

Look ahead as He leads, and beside as He loves.

With Him beside, our entire life should be affected – including our interaction with others. We must get to the point where we can feel the presence of God so strongly in our lives that our natural instinct becomes to introduce Him to those who may not feel His presence in the same way. I haven’t gotten to that point yet – or I haven’t yet fully realized God’s presence at all times. We, including myself, need to always remember that not only is God ahead of us leading the way, but is also beside us, showing His love. Realize that God is beside you in everything you do, and as your realization of this improves, the need to introduce Him to those around you will become second nature.

God, I pray that You let us feel Your presence in all we do, and constantly give us an awareness of Your presence, so our natural instinct is to introduce you to those who don’t know you.

This post was inspired in part by Oswald Chambers and his book, “My Utmost for His Highest. I’d like to share what I read.

“Jesus asks us to get beside Him and take one end of the yoke, so that we can pull together. The only way to know the strength of God is to take the yoke of Jesus upon us, and to learn from Him.”

“Where do the saints get their joy? If we did not know some Christians well, we might think they have no burdens at all to bear. But we must see! The fact that God is in them is proof that a burden is there as well. The burden that God places on us squeezes the grapes in our lies, and produces the wine, but most of us see only the wine, and not the burden.

No power on earth or in hell can conquer the Spirit of god living within the human spirit; it creates an inner invincibility.” – Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest, April 14)

(THE OTHER SIDE OF) ETERNAL LIFE: A THEORY

*This is a theory I have on the simplified Christian view of Hell – not the biblical view, but rather how we as humans have muddied that view. In my own life, I believe I fall victim to this view in order to justify my actions, so I’m simply writing this to throw it out there and see what other people think. If you feel the need, please criticize me.

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”  – John 17:3

All throughout scripture, Eternal Life is mentioned. As John 17:3 states, this Eternal Life is found only through knowing god, and recognizing Jesus Christ as your savior. This is a pretty standard, commonplace teaching in Christianity. We grow up being taught that the gift of God is eternal life, and constantly thank God for this gift.

But what about the other side of the statement? What about those that never accept the Gospel? Why do we never hear of their fate in the same manner?

The truth is, we do. Matthew 25:46 describes hell as “eternal punishment,” and heaven as “eternal life.” So I suppose my question is why do we tend to overlook this view of Hell? I have a theory, and it involves a new perspective. We often see hell as death, which in our human minds triggers an end, or the end. We picture Hell as a sort of ‘end of chances,’ and basically end up discussing it as “not heaven” rather than what it really is. In doing so, we completely discredit hell for what the Bible tells us it really is.  We, as Christians, can easily end up picturing the afterlife as either never-ending joy with Christ, or a black room. Basically, we try to look away from the eternal reality of hell in order to brush aside the urgency of sharing the gospel. I believe we live in a denial of the reality of hell because of our great desire to live in an ideal world where God rescues all from hell, whether they recognize Him for doing so or not.

The truth, however, isn’t ideal. And it is urgent.

The truth is, everyone gets eternal life, but others see a different side of it. While some will experience eternal joy and peace with Christ, others will experience, as Matthew 25:46 says, “eternal punishment.” This eternal punishment is more than a black room, or an end to it all. It is never-ending, and it is punishment. There’s no mediocre, in-between area for the non-believers we really like, no matter how much we all wish there was one. It is eternal either way, and it’s the job of Christians to show the people we love which way to choose. Until we see hell as the other side of eternal life, and live with that in mind, I’m not sure we really have the ability to empathize and truly anguish as Paul did over the fate of the unsaved.

Do you realize we’re all headed to an eternity with two options? And do you realize that you have the ability to help people decide which option to choose? There is no middle ground. There is no mediocre punishment. There is no ideal world where those that reject God receive heaven. Live as a warning to this fact out of love for all of those who are just as unrighteous as you and I. No one deserves heaven, and everyone deserves hell, but everyone deserves to hear their options as well. Not everyone will accept them, and not everyone will believe them. But everyone does have the right to know what their options are.

Do you see both sides of eternity? Or do you only see eternal heaven, while blocking the reality that is eternal hell? Realize there are only two options in eternity – and you have the power to tell what those are and how to choose the better.

CLINGING TO LIFE (Pull the plug)

“I have been crucified with Christ.” – Galatians 2:20

“Since we have been united with Him in His death, we will also be raised to life as He was.” – Romans 6:5

Possibly the largest lesson of the New Testament is the need we all have to die to ourselves. Have you reached that point? I haven’t. I know that my own selfishness has yet to be completely killed. I know I still find myself ignoring God at times in order to indulge in my own desires, and those desires definitely aren’t glorifying to God.

I know also that I’m on life support. I know I’m close. I’m in a coma to this life, largely unaware of myself and focused on God, but my nature makes it extremely hard to just pull the plug. I know that once that plug is pulled, I no longer have control, and the only life I’ve ever really known is gone. Once that plug is pulled, I have no say over myself or my life, and am an eternal servant of God’s . I know that God is good, and His way is better than my own, but I also know that I have control when it’s my life, and His life for me is completely unknown.

We, as a broken humanity, thirst for control, which is why the Gospel is so hard for us to fully accept. The Gospel requires us to forfeit all of our control. “If we lose our lives, we will save them.” The Gospel requires us to be totally dependent on Him, and that is counter to our nature.

Some people will tell me they have completely given up control, and 90% of those people are liars. They are liars with good intentions, but liars just the same. Killing 100% of ourselves is the hardest thing for us to do, because there is always something to grasp at on the way to the grave, even when the grave is really just the place new life begins.

Do you see your death as your birth? Are you ready to die to your own will? I don’t know if any of us can be until we realize  where we are now is not life, and we realize how cheated we have been while living under our own power. I am ready to quit cheating myself – are you? Pull the plug and let’s start life.

-A man on life support.

IT IS FINISHED.

I truly believe understanding exactly what Jesus did for us is something we, because of our sinful nature and selfishness, will never fully understand – especially among people who grew up in the church, because we’ve grown up singing songs about it, hearing the Easter story every year, and memorizing John 3:16.

“He gave His one and only son . . .”
I’ve come to believe that because of our own pride and knowledge, it’s hard for us not to become the Pharisee, believing we deserved what Christ did for us – believing we were good enough to earn it. In reality, however, it is only when we recognize ourselves as pitiful that we can truly see who Christ died for, and what He gave up to do so.

“In the beginning. . . “
God created. The first step in recognizing what Christ did for us is recognizing who He is: God. Jesus was and is fully God, and is the same God that created the world which He would later die for. It’s so easy to view Jesus as God’s son whom He sent just for the crucifixion and forget about Jesus’ presence before His life on earth, when in reality He has been here since the beginning. He saw the earth come into existence, and saw the people on it continually turn away from Him. He parted the Red Sea, yet watched as the Israelites worshiped other gods and abandoned the God who carried them through the wilderness. He did all these things before He even came to earth, yet we still couldn’t follow Him. We still abandoned Him for our own selfishness. He gave Solomon his wisdom, only to watch him indulge in his own desires. He had to continually watch as we abandoned His wisdom only to watch our own wisdom fail us over and over and over again.

“The wisdom of man . . . “
Is foolishness to God. No one knew this more than Jesus Christ, yet He came. He came to save every last one of us from our own foolishness, and in order to do so, He had to embrace – and even become –the flesh of our foolishness. He had to be fully us in every aspect. When we really compare our wisdom to God’s its like comparing us as humans to a goldfish. Jesus’ actions would basically be like one of us becoming a goldfish, dying so other goldfish might live – goldfish who, just earlier, completely abandoned you as their provider. It’s as if goldfish decided they could make their own food and clean their own water, rather than knowing those things come from you, and made the decision to wait for something else rather than let you provide the rest for them. If these goldfish, who are so much smaller than you, decided not to accept what you offer, the best, easiest solution would be to scrap it all. Flush the goldfish, and start new with something more appreciative.

Yet God didn’t take the rational path. In fact, He took the way that goes completely against our intuition – He decided to become one of us goldfish! He decided that he would rather become us and take the blame for all of us than do a clean sweep and start it all over.

Apparently, when we’re “in love,” we’re experiencing a chemical reaction in our brains that causes us to be insane because of our love. I think God gave us a perfect example of the science behind love when He decided to join us on this earth and take the blame for our slander, blasphemy, lust, murder greed, pride, and everything else.

Put in His situation, we would logically look at restarting everything, yet God decided to redeem. He chose to give us Rebirth. And even in His redemptive grace, He gives us the choice. Will it be ourselves, or Himself? Our eyes or His? It’s all our choice and I choose His.

*This was influenced largely by the Easter message given at Element Church in Cheyenne, WY, which can be found at http://www.elementweb.net/