Saturday, August 13, 2016

Joyful Inconvenience

We go through life being inconvenienced for many different reasons. Whether at the store when they don't have our favorite ice cream. We are inconvenienced when we are stuck in traffic trying to get home to our wives who have an amazing night planned. And, we are inconvenienced when we break down on the side of the road and are late for an important event and can't do anything about it. No matter what, when things go awry and not the way we planned, for the worse and not the better, we are not happy, and deserve better. Or do we?

For the past 3 weeks I have been in Georgia away from home training for my new job. Away from my wife, listening to lectures, watching films, taking tests, and working with people my personality is not compatible with to then come back to the hotel, grab a meal, and go to bed to wake up hours later and do it all over again. For 3 weeks. I was ready to come home. Guess what? Didn't happen. Got to the airport and my flight was delayed. Then delayed some more to the point where I missed my connecting flight. With no flights available, I am stuck in an Atlanta Ramada Plaza that looks like it hasn't been updated since it was built in the late 1970's. Not to mention that they gave me meal tickets to use at the hotel that hasn't had a working kitchen since Ronald Reagan was President of the United States. I'm not happy, or joyful, and yes, feeling put out. 

So where does the joy come in? It comes in Jesus Christ. That no matter what situation I am in, I can use it for Christ's glory.

People ask me often why I am so patient and that in really sticky situations I let things (for the most part) roll off my back like water on a duck. Not always the case trust me. My friends know me better. But for the average person I'm pretty patient. How did it happen? The Lord for one. Of course, but also there are some things I do to help me through a situation, like I'm having right now.

Heartbeat?

Next time you're having a crappy day, and things are just not going your way. No matter what you do, it's just not working out, do this. Take your right index and middle finger, put them together, and put them up to your neck and feel your heartbeat. Is it beating? Then you're doing pretty good. Seriously. When I get really messed up, depressed, sad, angry, put out, I just feel my heartbeat and say, "Yup, still beating. Praise the Lord. Doing good today." Now this may not work for everyone and I would never belittle any condition people may have like chronic pain, disease, cancer...etc...etc. I've met people who would be thankful their heartbeat wasn't there. But for most of us, the average person, that heartbeat is the only thing keeping you from sudden death. I mean think about it. You have a pump in your chest that never needs maintenance, lubrication, oil, repair, or primed and pumps at least if not over 100,800 times a day, every day, without stopping. How can you think about that for a few minutes and not praise God for what you have?

Look Up.

Many times when I've been down or anxious, I go outside on a nice clear night away from city lights, and look up at the stars and think to myself, "I am a very insignificant part of this entire universe that God created for His glory." Depressing? No. Because I am traveling 67,000 miles per hour on a rock that is spinning at 1,000 miles per hour, the sun that heats the earth enough to grow plants, lets us see, create solar energy, among hundreds of other thing but not too close that we burst into flames or far enough that we turn into Popsicles and freeze to death. Every morning I know the sun will rise and at night I know the sun will set, and there is nothing I can do about it. You know what? It's cool with me. I can't control what goes on in space, but God is in control. He's way better at it than I would be. Read Job 39-42 and prepare to be amazed at God's glory and His control on our lives. 

Look Out. 

Now when I say "look out" it's not a warning, but a comfort. Every once in a while I will put my face up against the bathroom mirror, close one eye, and stare at my eyeball. I'll study it, check out every line and detail. The colors, the shapes, size, and just say to myself, "wow, God created that, and that is just one small piece of me." Blows my mind every time. He took care to make that, among many other parts. Designed and engineered for His glory. I am His special creation. What is He going to do with me today?

God's Plan Usually Isn't My Own

Here is my point. I am a part of the entire creation. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, created in God's image for His glory. God is the potter, and I am the clay. Formed with a purpose and function with love. Since He created me, He can do whatever He wishes in my life. Do we really have free will? What if I made a pencil from scratch. Does my pencil have free will to write whatever it wants?  Do I own the pencil? Can I write anything I want with the pencil? What if I snapped the pencil in half and threw it away? Can I do that? Do I have that right, or does that make me a mean person? So if I am God's creation, made with a purpose and function, does that give me the right to do whatever I wanted? Nope. Does it give God the right to do whatever He wanted with me? Yup. 

So I think about this and wonder, "what if I am here in this Hotel for a reason other than missing my flight?" What if this was God's will I was here? Here's what happened to me today. For the past three weeks I've been reading a book my John Piper called, When I Don't Desire God, How to Fight For Joy. So I had it in my hands when I checked in and the guy who was working the counter saw the book and commented on it. I told him what the book was about and he took a picture of it and said he needed to read it. He's been a joyless Christian for months and has been praying for a revival in his heart feeling bad that he doesn't have a desire for God much lately. What if I was meant to talk with him and encourage him, and give him a Gideon New Testament to put a smile on his face (which I did). God has plans for us that we don't know. A man plans his ways, but God directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9). 

Better Than I Deserve

Years ago I had the privilege to know a man at church named Ken Hunt. I never really talked with him until one day he overheard me telling someone about a problem in my basement and he offered to help. After helping me with the basement we ate dinner my wife cooked and chatted about things to get to know each other. One thing about Ken is that when you asked him, "How you doing?" he always answered, "better than I deserve." One day I asked him about it and  was curious what he meant. He just answered something like, "No matter what we get in this life, it is better than what we deserve, and that's hell." That was a key moment to my thinking as a Christian, that no matter what I receive in this life, it will be far better than anything I deserve in the next. Thank God (literally) that He sent His Son to willfully pay my fine with His life blood on the cross so I can have that better life. This helps me have a thankful heart as much as I can. 

So, tonight I will be sleeping in my clothes with the light on, but thank God I have a roof over my head and a lock on my door. I'm not going to get much sleep, but thank the Lord He will allow me to get up another day and breathe His air. 

I have a heartbeat. Life is good, and no matter what, it's better than I deserve. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Is Your Faith Real?

In my previous blog post, Feelings...Nothing More Than...Feelings, I expressed my concern regarding the feelings of the Mormon Missionaries that came to my door as a sign that the Book of Mormon is true. Feelings, though may seem true at the time, are not true all the time, nor a test for religious books of antiquity. Like I told them before, sometimes I feel like reading the bible, sometimes I don't. But that is not a test to prove the bible is true, or not true.

There is a threefold confirmation that we are children of God, or an assurance that we are saved. Paul talks about this confirmation in 1 Thessalonians 1:5, "For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake." This threefold assurance of our salvation is found in the trustworthy word, confirming Holy Spirit, and the changed life.

Trustworthy Word

This is the heart of what I want to write about in the next blog post will be the trustworthiness of the Holy Bible and the trustworthiness of the Book of Mormon. Both claim to be God's word, and trustworthy books. It doesn't matter how I think I am doing, but what the bible says how I am doing. Objective truth is found in the object of the trustworthy word. Our assurance in the Bible is based on 1 John 5:9-13.

Confirming Holy Spirit

Second, there is an internal witness of the Holy Spirit that confirms that we are really children of God. Paul declares in Romans 8:16, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with out spirit that we are children of God." How do we know we have the Holy Spirit? We have His fruit. His fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit is the "IOU" of our faith in Christ. Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 and Ephesians 1:13-14 that the Holy Spirit is our guarantee of our inheritance until the end where we are face to face with Him.

Changed Life

Third, our changed life is a witness that we are Children of God. The proof that we have experienced the new birth is from our changed life. Good fruit only comes from good trees (Matthew 7:15-20). Probably the best known example of this is taken from the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians. This church, which is deemed the "exemplary church", was a model not only to us, but also to those around them and in all their known world  (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8). They had a changed life. From out of their faith they were followers of the Lord (vs 6), had teachable spiritual growth (vs 6), received the word in much affliction (vs 6), had joy from the Holy Spirit (vs 6), faith in God (vs 8), were active in evangelism (vs 8), bore fruits of repentance (vs 9), served God (vs 9), awaited with love the Lord's return (vs 10), and belief in the resurrection of Christ from the dead (vs 10).

Repentance is turning 180 degrees from sin and turning towards God to obey Him and His word. Yes it is true that God calls you just as you are, but the truth is He doesn't expect you to stay there. Let's put it this way, supposed your friend walked up to you and said, "I just got hit by a logging truck this morning." You look at him and there is not a scratch on him. How could that be? If you were hit by tons of steel and wood you would show signs of it. So I ask, what is bigger...a logging truck or God? If you were hit by God, you would know it...and so would everyone else.

I firmly believe that all three have to be there in order to have full assurance of God's salvation on our souls. If either of them are not found, there is no way a person could possibly be saved. Though the Mormons claim to have the Holy Spirit, and also their lives may seem godly, where they lack is the trustworthiness of the Book of Mormon. As you will see in my next post, the Book of Mormon fails as a book to be regarded as truth. This would be true also with someone who believes the bible, yet doesn't have the fortitude of a changed life. They still have no difference in their lives as a Christian as they did when they were not born again.