“God the Movie Character” versus “God the God”

My three-year-old nephew just may be one of the world’s worst hide and seekers. For some reason he thinks that he is able to hide 3 feet away from where I am counting and not be found. For some reason having bed sheets cover your upper body makes you invisible. His favorite movie to watch is Ice Age. Oddly enough, he is a staunch advocate for ONLY watching the few scenes with the squirrel chasing the acorn. We basically have to repeatedly fast forward through 85% of the movie just so that he can watch those hilarious “squirrel” moments. My nephew also likes to laugh, run around and hug. He can be tiring….but….believe me, I don’t mind at all. I can watch him watch Ice Age for hours. It feels so good just to be able to sit in the joy of his presence. My mini-me. It is tough living 7 hours away from him now.

There is a picture of my little nephew on my fridge. There are three other photos spread across on my coffee table, ha.  They help me remember his smile everyday and it pulls this lever of warm happiness in my head. I love that kid. But in an awkward paradox, I also hate the photos. Sometimes I want to just put them away so that I cannot see them. The reason for this being that they play with my emotions. They leave me empty inside because I realize that I cannot really see him.  The photos are not the real thing….they aren’t my fun, joyful nephew. I can’t hug it tight and teach it to hit a baseball. The photos are not willing to race me in the backyard. And it surely does not ask me to play the Gummy Bear Song on my laptop 20 times a day. As much as those pictures do serve me well….I hit a ceiling with them every time. I do not know the pictures. They fail to give me the sustaining love that my nephew brings. It is very frustrating.

In the same way, we should be frustrated when we settle for the concept of God instead of the reality of Him. The grace and love that God has allotted to us is very tough to receive when he is simply a concept to be thought on. On the other hand, a reality is something that we can grasp. One way this plays out when we go to church, sing a few songs, pray the same systematic prayer, and then make sure that we do not curse as we drive home. We turn church into a hobby and turn God into a “thought”.  Jesus becomes a movie character we know about, instead of a God we know & love. All the while we are short-changing ourselves. Are we treating God like a concept or like a reality?

When the explosion occurred at the Boston Marathon last week, all of America was reminded of the reality of terrorism. We remembered the reality of how short life is and the evil in this world. This changed us, in a positive way, for a few days. Two weeks ago most of America only viewed terrorism as a concept (even as we all very well know that it is real) because we have not been attacked in a while. However, these past few days, we have been focused on the realities of terrorism as our eyes have been reopened. Cancer is only a concept to me because I haven’t had anyone extremely close be affected by it. But let my mother catch it…then you’ve got my heart’s attention to it’s reality. Then you’ve got me on my knees praying to God about cancer.

We must press for our walk with Christ to be the same way, without needing something tragic to remind us. The more that we spend with our thoughts on the Lord and speaking with him the more we will experience his presence. He will become a reality and not just a few words in a big book (our a picture on the fridge). King David says “But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge…” Psalm 73:28. David, who was a chief sinner in the Bible, experienced a beautiful closeness with our Lord. This is a man who committed adultery and then had the nerve to have the husband of his mistress killed. Still, the Bible calls him a man after God’s own heart, Acts 13:22. Is this not an open door invitation that maybe, even we average-level sinners, can have that closeness as well?

The gravity of knowing God and trying to sync up with him is a reality that God wants us to know personally. I love it when I get the chance to be around Charismatic believers. They get this particular aspect of the Gospel down so well. They have a holy-exuberance that they meditate in constantly and the fruit can be seen from it. I pray that we grasp him closer and hone in on these truths more.  He physically came into this world. He did die for us. He did resurrect. He IS returning. Yes, Yes, Yes, he is returning. [Matthew 24:30]

I hope that my nephew reads this blog post after he learns to read. This may get me a few cool points AND help in his sanctification. Clutch victory there.

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When all we hear is SILENCE

You know those times when you’re praying with all your heart that God would fix a certain something in your life? Not that one time, that one night that you asked for it. I am talking about months, sometimes years, of the same pleading prayer in asking for God to heal, give, or take something away. But he doesn’t respond. As a matter of fact, things get worse. It is as if he does not hear you at the moment and chooses to let what is happening continue to occur despite the reality that it is haunting your very soul. Night after night after week after year you ask in hope that maybe just maybe he’ll finally save the day like you learned in Sunday School class. However, each night you get nothing. You’re left lying down in bed wondering. Funny, in times like these I’m reminded of when Jesus claims that all we need is ‘the faith of a mustard seed….’ But as I pray I can pretty much guarantee that my faith in that moment is at least the size of an medium-sized orange; and I’m yelling for God to please come into the picture and help!  I mean, why would he constantly not?

It’s very frustrating when you know theology and scripture well because you then, inadvertently, answer you own “why God, why” questions. My conscious likes to arrogantly tell my heart, “That’s easy, just wait on the Lord and remember his sovereignty…read Romans 8 and 9 dude.” Now as beautiful and true as those verses are, NOTHING in me wants to listen to them in those moments, they are too painful and too hard hear. This is why the Apostle Paul is such an enigma to me. For a Just as Paul had spoken, not one life was lost in the shipwreck.single man to suffer as he did in a plethora of ways and keep moving forward…the Spirit must have been strong in him. Good gosh the man was beaten, flogged over and over again, hunted down by cities and countries, periodically went through starvation, sometimes did not have clothes to wear, was stressed out by churches going crazy, shipwrecked 3 times (4 if you count being lost at sea), almost died on numerous occasions, had a physical ailment allotted by God, and never even really had a place to call “home”. On top of that, a snake randomly bit him. Really??? Talk about a rough season. I wonder how many nights he spent sobbing. I wonder how much joy he was divinely able to attain by the grace given to him by God. You know there had to be a ton of both. Oh to see Paul’s face right now as he’s living it up in Heaven.

I wish we were all more open as a people. More of a family. The Internet was brought in to make everything and everyone more accessible and closer. Instead, much of what it has done is make us more superficial, taken the depth out of our relationships, and turn us closer into recluses. This makes us more prone to always act as if we’re “ok” in front of others…when on the inside we are secretly crumbling and drowning underwater. All the while, we’re smiling and not saying a thing, “as long as someone retweets me I’m happy.” Satan is soooo sneaky there and he is not stopping anytime soon. It hurts when you see the fruit of his schemes. Especially when those exact fruits are somehow eaten by the people you care about. If believers in Christ were more honestly open and unified as a people the power and boldness from that alone would overwhelmingly change the world. The Bible and secular history attests to this over and over again, but we miss it. We miss it. We.continually.miss.it.

For example, in Acts 19 the Gospel enters the city of Ephesus and immediately changes the entire socioeconomic climate throughout the city. Riots began to break out because those that were still doing evil were no longer getting paid their dirty money. We can look at history as well. If you have time, please look up “The Welch Revival”.  Hundreds of thousands of people in the country of Wales were saved and the entire culture at large was a family. No crime no worries… just peace, worship, joy, and love in the Lord. When are we going to start believing in the strength of the Gospel and our unity as believers and stop giving in to societal norms? We need to start. The quicker we do so the more joy there is to have. I must keep praying because I know he’s listening. Prayers for things in my life, those around me, and for the world. God constantly has me thinking about these things for some reason and I do not know why. But I’ll ask until he answers, as I know he will in his time. Because even when it seems like he has not listened to any of my particular prayers….I know he has and cares more than I do. He even knows what I am going to say before I pray. My faith has to be in that eternal being there. I long for the day that the earth will be filled with the knowledge and the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

 [Other verses used-Habakkuk 2:14, Acts 17:24-28, Luke 17:6, 2 Corinthians 11:23-31, Philippians 1:27,28]

Youtube Moment: Beautiful, Childlike Worship

For anyone older than 16, anytime we get a glimpse of the unique innocence of children, it reminds us of a “different” time in our lives. A time of believing in Santa Claus, fairies, and magic. Almost everything we did at this time in our lives was done with some sort of passion. I remember the joy I felt when learning to ride my bike. Or my brothers and I being unable to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. Or even singing along with Barney on the television. I distinctively remember the warm feeling of each of those things.

This video is another one of my Youtube favorites. The video is of kids singing a Coldplay song together in their music class. I keep looking around in the video to see if any one of them purposefully aren’t singing…but sure enough they all are. Some, you can tell, are introverts; others, extroverts. Each kid is singing with a certain zeal and enthusiasm without any remote feeling of shame. If you look at their hand movements and facial expressions you begin to realize that what they are doing is worshiping. Unknowingly, worshiping. We were all created to worship God in all his glory (Revelation 4:11, Zephaniah 3:17, Hebrews 13:15).

Funny how these kids are unknowingly doing what they were deeply created to do. It makes sense because their souls were trained to do this at their creation….so it is natural to them. Due to it being natural, it becomes unknowing to them. Hence one of the billion ways that God reveals to us that he is very very extremely real. If there were no God, why are these kids performing the mannerisms that they are performing? What foundational standard are the standing on? Where do they have the ability to attain those uniformly objective feelings of emotions from a simple Coldplay song? It is impossible outside a sovereign Creator God and Savior in Jesus Christ.

This is why we innately worship. And the main purpose for that worship being for the praise of his glorious grace which he had freely given us, says Ephesians 1:5,6. The ultimate climax of that grace is Jesus dying on the cross. And I pray that I worship like these kids whenever I dwell on those facts. I fall short in that area daily.. The closer that that holy dwelling occurs 24/7 in my life, then the better my joy will be. I pray that it to be shameless and with childlike zeal that causes the angels in Heaven to say, “Yes, that’s exactly what you should be doing, duhhh”. haha

Our Future Wedding Feast with Jesus!

I have gotten the warm pleasure of joining this particular small group within one of the many churches I have been trying out. This is my first time being in a community of believers that has such a wide age variation- from people my age up to married couples and even grandparents. And here’s what I’ve noticed…..

It is good. There is a sweet and vivid depiction of Christ-like love in how the entire group communes together. Since Day One there has been nonstop laughter followed by deep-deep worship. One thing that has strongly caught my eye is how the young children around treat their fathers.  They. Love. Their. Daddy.  I mean, those kids absolutely adore their dads. You can see the pure admiration in their eyes, even the babies.  In the future, I want that very badly. I’m praying for it. Now, it is not that those guys did everything right per se, because there is the element of God’s grace…but I sure do want to learn from them though. I’m taking notes with a permanent mental-marker.

What is even more special is that this weekly occurrence of meeting together for fellowship happens everywhere across the globe. Believers constantly gathering together to pray and cry and eat and laugh.  This picture, when seen from a holistic perspective, is jaw-dropping. We have brothers and sisters THROUGHOUT the world, but can’t really come close to grasping or seeing the fullness of what exactly is happening. But one day we will. One day we will.

The scriptures repetitively attempt to show us this theme of eating together, sometimes partying in celebration even. In summary, those scriptures say that:

good food and good wine is to be enjoyed with good friends and an abundance of jokes and laughter because….this is how we practice for heaven.”

The big question now becomes, “what are we practicing for?”

Some of my favorite imagery in Revelation is that of the future “Wedding Supper of the Lamb.” The possibilities of what that will look like are endless.  Fortunately, Revelation 19-20 gives us some details. During the second coming of Jesus, after the Judgment, there will be a great multitude of joyful singing and music leading up to the millennial reign of Christ. There will be epic shouting of praises because we finally see God in his fullness and to our shock He has chosen us to be with him.  It will literally sweep us off our feet.  No seriously, it literally will…because what directly follows is the Marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7,8). This will consist of us, the corporate members of the church, being made ready for our impending event with Christ. Just try to imagine the feeling of what that’s going to be like. The excitement of our full consummation with Christ, all that we’ve hoped for and prayed for has finally arrived. Our emotions will be running high. We are talking about ALL the believers past, present, and future. ALL, together.

Finally the moment arrives, as it is now time for the highly anticipated Wedding Supper Of The Lamb!!! Our delicious feast with Jesus Christ! Jesus alludes to this gigantic family meal at certain times during his earthly ministry, namely in Luke 22 and Matthew 8.   Image

He tells his disciples that they will all “eat and drink again in the Kingdom that God has granted.” He also mentions that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be at this table with us.  In Revelation 15:3, John says that there will be songs sang of Moses and of the song of the Lamb. Many theologians believe that these passages give us key hints into how this feast will play out.

This scene is interpreted to describe a dinner “toast.” In this scene, believers from around the world and from different time periods on earth will be telling their individual stories of how God saved them and did tremendous things during their lives…all to the glory of God. So Moses will stand up and tell the story of Pharaoh and the burning bush. He won’t be stuttering as he did in his earthly body. When he gets to part of the Red Sea parting, the apostles Peter and Matthew will interrupt him and joyfully shout for him to “act” it out again. And Moses will do it and we’ll all laugh and worship about what God did there. People will glance over at Jesus as to say, “ Wow, you were in control of that too?!?!!”

Then Abraham will speak. Then Elijah. King David. Mary Magdalene. The Samaritan Woman. And so on. Then it will be our turn to speak and tell our stories. I would contend that the most epic stories told will be those told by the smallest, most unheralded of people.

-The surprising stories will be those similar to the little old lady that lived in the 1840s risking her like to teach Irish immigrants the Gospel as they arrived in Manhattan.

-It’s going to be the millions of Africans that were martyred for coming to Christ in the early 1900s, but never hesitated as their brothers and sisters were killed in front of them.

-The heart-wrenching story will come from the physically/mentally challenged kids that died at young ages because their health completely failed them. For the record, scripture is going to say that these kids will be in perfect, new spiritual bodies at this supper. And they will clearly speak to us all with power and purpose.

-Some of the most glorifying stories will be that of the guy that struggled with depression and spiritual warfare his entire life….but kept praying and kept pushing into the Lord.

This feast will have some very crazy, awesome-filled moments. What is tough is imagining someone standing up and bragging about how easy and lukewarm their Christian life was. Not directly after John the Baptist talks about the awesome times he had baptizing people, lets be real. See, it’s very tough to give glory to God when your praise is to health, prosperity, and ease; but not to the giver of all things. We must remember to give glory to God always. Especially now, today, together, because this is our practice for when we get to Heaven.

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Other verses used: Hebrew 10:25, Ecclesiastes 9:7, Exodus 24:11, Daniel 12:2, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Revelation 20:1-5, 1 Corinthians 15:35-49, 1 John 3:2, Hebrews 10:25.

Michael Jordan’s “King Solomon” Syndrome

The first time I ever watched a televised basketball game just so happens to have been during Michael Jordan’s final playoff run in 1998. They were playing the Indiana Pacers in the Conference Finals. My dad loved to watch him and every commercial idolized him. Most importantly, I knew him as the awesome guy from Space Jam (Daffy Duck’s acting in that movie was impeccable, if I may add).

This past week ESPN and the NBA paid homage to Jordan for his 50th birthday. ESPN senior writer, Wright Thompson, actually had the pleasure of spending five weeks alongside MJ for an up close and personal documentary on him. Wright spent practically every hourImage with Michael during this time with the goal of reporting just how Michael is dealing with his life today, post-basketball.

Besides the fact that Michael has:

1)   A Private jet painted to mimic a basketball sneaker,

2)   Extravagant houses in multiple cites around America,

3)   Ownership over the Charlotte Bobcats’ NBA franchise,

4)   Golfing excursions with the likes of Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton,

5)   Been idolized by every single sports superstar, from David Beckham to Cam Newton,

6)   A larger sports legacy than any other athlete to date,

7)   Wealth and prosperity,

8)   A beautiful fiancé,

9)   A continual dominant presence in the NBA without even physically playing,

10) A life and career that a majority of the people in the world would love to exchange for.

…Besides all of this, at the end of this five weeks Wright Thompson found that Michael Jordan was very unhappy and discontented with life beyond basketball.  Turns out that Jordan still desperately yearns for the opportunity to suit back up and play ball again. He has constant fears that he’ll be forgotten in the wind by the next generation. His daily routines consist of him habitually staying busy and active so that he doesn’t have long stints of silence or boredom. He is now somewhat a prisoner of his own life. Wright’s entire article has an extremely close parallel with what King Solomon experienced and wrote in his mental reflection on his life in the book of Ecclesiastes.

King Solomon did everything in life far better than any of us can imagine, let alone achieve. He went through a life-long experiment to see if he could find full satisfaction without God (Ecclesiastes 1). He ruled nations with peace and without war in both Judah and Israel. His wisdom was beyond measure. He was the wealthiest king that has ever lived. He was more handsome and prettier than us. He had self-made national forests, vineyards, mansions, and massive pools built for himself. He had slaves for his slaves. He knew about both botany and ethology. He routinely threw epic parties for thousands of people that included 40,000 horses, deer, gazelles, cattle and the finest wine. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. (1 Kings 4-6, Ecclesiastes 2-3, 2 Chronicles 9:23, Psalm 45:2).

After years of testing everything that he could, including wealth, power, friendship, work, knowledge, and pleasure……Solomon found that it was all meaningless. He ran into diminishing returns when it came to enjoyment and found that there is nothing worth its full salt without God being the main component in the picture.

The reason why Solomon’s test failed and MJ is not satisfied is that when sin entered the world, WE all exchanged our infinite creator God for his creation. When this took place we began to settle for temporary, fleeting pleasure rather than what our soul really needs for satisfaction (Genesis 3, Romans 1).  Solomon concludes that Michael is weird to think that what he needs to finally be happy is more of what he already has. I mean come on….is another championship ring and million dollars really going to satisfy him? He already has six rings and a sports legacy that no other human may ever top. Solomon’s point is that we should enjoy life and enjoy it deeply, but not to forget about God in this small window of our lives.

King Solomon’s mental outlook is a foreshadowing of what Jesus says in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4).

To paraphrase, Jesus tells her “Trust me, come to me and you will never thirst again. Trust me. Do not outlook this opportunity…I’ve got what you have been missing.”

See, only a true believer in Christ can understand the joyful realization of the provision that God has over our lives. With the Gospel in view, we begin to see life just how God intended for it to be seen…without discontentment or regrets of redoing the past.

[http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/page/Michael-Jordan/michael-jordan-not-left-building]

Girls Are Cute and Atheism is Strange

Well……….it was my junior year of college when I fell head over hills (mountains, for accuracy) for this girl in my math class. It was literally my first legitimate big crush on a girl. It is safe to say that I was a slightly late bloomer. Most of the class periods would consist of me glancing over and daydreaming about her – wondering where our first date would be.

ImageConsequently, I ended up with a “C” in the class. Each night I would think to myself, “Tomorrow I am going to ask her out. No fears!” I would even rehearse the lines I planned to say in  my head. However, as class ended each day, I’d freak out inside and digress my plan into just trying again tomorrow. Long story short, I did nothing for the entire semester and it crushed me for about a year afterwards, ha.

During that semester I found myself watching drastically more chick flicks than usual. I needed ammo and ideas for this girl! Also, my IPod playlists consisted solely of extremely cheesy loves songs. My favorites were:Image

Teddy Geiger – For you I will

Train  – Drops of Jupiter

Plain White T’s – 1,2,3,4

Shawn Colvin – When you know 

Liz Phair – Why Can’t I breathe

The list was endless and continues to this day. The Disney movies that I watched that semester seemed better than ever. My DVD player was constantly playing ‘Serendipity’ and ‘P.S. I Love You’.

For some reason, the words being used in those songs/movies triggered off this emotion of “recognition” inside myself. As weird as it is, it is no longer even about the girl. There was something very deep inside my soul that recognized what was happening as if…maybe…I was created to feel that feeling. That feeling of a real, everlasting love that can successfully fill me up with everything I need. Weird huh? It’s like there should be a powerful being that can do this….

Switching gears,

Where did those feelings and reactions come from? There should be an origin of the intrinsic feelings of romance, happiness, sadness, laughter, satisfaction, mourning, etc. It is in our nature to try to find out what is behind everything in the universe. For thousands of years mankind has been trying to figure this out. This self-will to search for truth is given from God so that we may eventually seek Him (Acts 17:27).

Atheists have desperately tried to answer this question. There are many types (Marxists, Freudians, Naturalists, Relativists, Anti-theists and others) but for the most part they all believe in some sort of Big Bang-type creation from nothing and macroevolution. However, by believing in this, it would seem that they then inadvertently contradict themselves and cannot answer these simple “why” questions (let alone our existence). Unlike machines, we always seem to care about something. In order to believe what they believe, they must agree that our existence was an accident based off of a meaningless causation. Without a God creating the universe, we should not be able to say that something is good, beautiful, or true. We are simply matter in motion and chemicals firing off in the universe. If this is the case and everything is meaningless, then conversely what they claim and anything we do is not meaningful. We know this is not true. But without objectivity, the ability to judge, I should not be able to have a crush on a particular girl as opposed to another girl. Those cheesy love songs and movies should not have triggered off any meaning in my brain at all.

So where is the truth?

The truth lies within our living God. Being made in his triune image (i.e. from the time of Adam and Eve) our souls remember that at some point of existence there was once a perfect and infinite love that did fulfill us. It is seen in the first two chapters of the Bible. Every chapter after that is God’s story of bringing us back to that point of perfection. Ecclesiastes 3:11 mentions how we have an emptiness in our hearts that can only be filled by eternity. The reason we enjoy good food, but still are left wanting more is because of this missing piece in our hearts. When Adam and Eve ate, there fullness resulted in complete joy in the food and glory to the divine Father that gave it. It was perfect…until sin entered.

Luckily, Jesus fills this gap (John 10:10). This was done to create gratitude for his name and, in turn, give us fullness of joy. And at his second coming our fullness will be complete. It is a “double-grace”. We have gratitude in that Christ died for us and hope in that he is returning. It is a double-grace equal to double dessert. And faith binds the two together.

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