Friday, December 2, 2016

Slipping on Frozen Pee


The season for Coldest Nights has begun. For those that don’t know, Coldest Nights is a program in which The Journey Home, Murfreesboro Cold Patrol, Murfreesboro Rescue Mission, First Baptist Church, St Paul's Episcopal, and a few other churches pool their resources together to provide an emergency shelter to house men and women who are experiencing homelessness for when the temperatures are freezing or below.

 

I was hanging out at FBC where the men are housed and was talking with some volunteers that help with Murfreesboro Cold patrol. They were telling me stories of the previous year of when they were taking care of one of the homeless persons. They told me stories of it being freezing cold outside and they would find this person drunk while half passed out in a bundle of urine stained blankets. The volunteers told me about slipping on this person’s frozen pee one time at this person's camp. One time a volunteer was carrying this person back to their camp and the person peed on the volunteer (not accidently), and at a different time this person threatened to pee on the volunteer if they didn't leave. I was shocked and disgusted when hearing about this, but listening to these stories opened my eyes to how these volunteers are serious about loving their neighbors. After many of these unfortunate encounters with this person, the volunteers continued to care for this person and at times most likely saved this person’s life from freezing in the cold.

 

These stories amazed me because of the things these volunteers would go through to take care of a stranger. They weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. It reminds me of when Jesus healed the lepers, freed the demon possessed, and washed His disciples’ feet. Jesus wasn’t afraid to get His hands dirty. It struck me hard with my own convictions on how I want to help, but how I’m not willing to get my hands dirty.

 

I began to think in a new way of when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Jesus wasn’t afraid to get dirty in order to make the disciples clean. He worked to scrub off the layers of sand, clay, mud, possibly dirt from animal droppings, possibly even dried blood from various cuts, scrapes, or blisters. Jesus washed them. As He scrubbed He took away the evidence of the places they had been in the past. He prepared their feet for a new day, a new beginning. The disciples didn’t ask for it. Peter even said he wasn’t worthy of it at first. Even though, knowing their feet would get dirty again, Jesus still cleansed them from what they had been walking through.

 

How willing are we to get our hands dirty to help someone else have a fresh start, even if the person didn’t ask for it? We may have strong evidence that they are going to mess up again, but can we continue to forgive them of their past like Jesus did? My respect goes to those volunteers who are crazy enough to keep loving. 

I pray that we, me included, will be willing to get our hands dirty the next time the opportunity comes our way.

Monday, September 28, 2015

God Is Not In Control

If the title of this blog post churned your stomach, good.

I'll say it again, God is not in control.

When people hear this phrase I would say that the general immediate response is, "Blasphemy! Who are you to speak such words?!" I can imagine the voice in one's head yelling that passionately. But if you stop to really think about those words God is not in control, I think you will begin to understand and agree.

I have discovered a passion that I have, and it is making people think about and rethink what they believe. I feel that we as people generally become stagnant and start to lose our passions as we grow older. Events and life circumstances tend to distract us from what really matters, Christ. I am guilty of succumbing to these distractions as well as most people. Yet, sometimes I regain strength when I take time to stop and meditate.

So, meditate on those words God is not in control. What passions does that stir inside? What feelings do those words conjure up? Do you scoff at them and immediately dismiss them?

You may be thinking, "Okay you've said it enough, now get to your point." Let me give you the rest of the statement.

God is not in control because if He was, I would not be able to make that statement.

If you didn't get it, please read the above sentence^^ one more time, and slowly.

For those of you who don't know me very well, I will say that I am a believer in the resurrected Son of God, Jesus Christ, who died once to forgive the sins and save all who choose to believe in Him.

So how then, if I am a believer, can I say that God is not in control? Simple. If God my Father were in control there would not be a "refugee crisis" going on right now. If God was in control, you would never have been overcome by temptation to commit your most recent sin. If God were in control sickness of any kind would never be an issue. The list goes on.

When we say that God is in control, we are making a very bold and confusing statement to non-believers or those who are struggle in their faith. In what we call the present, Satan has power on the earth. He is the thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and he will do whatever it takes to distract us and pull us away from God. I believe the words God is in control are ignorant and blinding to the truth and love of God. 

Those words can be easily destructive because Satan is doing all kinds of evil trying to make us blame God for things gone wrong. All disease is from Satan. All hatred towards others is from Satan. Where is the hope for someone who is going through trials, has an affliction, or has lost a loved one and hears the words God is in control? If God is in control, why the suffering? Why the pain? Why the hatred towards others?

I give the hopeful words that God is not in control. Satan still has power to steal, kill, and destroy. Wait, what? How are those words at all hopeful? Because we know that on that final day, when Jesus comes again, God will be in control! After that day there will be no more sickness, no more pain, no more hatred for those who believe in Jesus Christ, the hope of glory. We know that on the day God is in control, we will no longer have to struggle with sinful thoughts or desires. We know that when God is in control, we won't have to worry about where our next meal will come from or where the money for our next bill will come from. On that day, when God is in control, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! So please, think a little more about your stereotypical "Christian" phrases before you say something that may slowly decay and poison someone's faith.

Now, don't think that because God is not in control that there is no hope for the present as well. We are told by Jesus to ask and receive and about how much our Father gives good gifts to those who ask. We are told to knock and the door will be opened to us and to seek and we will find. There are many times that each of these have come true for me in my life, and I believe that it will happen again. I also believe this can and will happen to anyone who asks and believes.

Our Father may not be in control right now, but He is omnipotent and is able to do anything He pleases. Because I know He loves us, I know He will support us in the fight against Satan until Christ comes again to reign.

****


For those of you that are like me and would like to see where this mindset comes from in scripture, here are a few verses that will back up what I have said:


Satan is on the earth here with us still.

"The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”" -Job 1:7

"On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”" -Job 2:1-2

"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." -1 Peter 5:8-9

Satan has supernatural power on this earth to try and blind and keep us from the Father.
"We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one." -1 John 5:19



"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ -Matthew 4:8-10


"I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me." -John 14:30-31

The Father giving good gifts.
"“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."" -Matthew 7:7-8 

"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"  -Matthew 7:11
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Please feel free to ask questions or make a comment below, or give another blog topic for me to consider. Thanks for reading I hope this has blessed you in some way!



Monday, April 14, 2014

Could Judas be the thief on the cross next to Jesus?

This idea came to me recently after hearing a sermon that was taught through an interpretation of the story behind the robbers on the cross, in the gospel of Luke chapter 23. I know that asking if Judas is the robber seems out of left field, but I have some passages and ideas that can support this theory.

Let's get your mind going. How many people do you meet that has the name Judas? People all around know about the story of how Judas betrayed Jesus, even non-believers. We like to point the finger to others and say, "At least I'm not as bad as that guy." How many of us look at Judas this way? The theory of Judas as the robber on the cross may change the way you look at Judas.

So to start off, I know those of you who know the scriptures are already thinking about how the Bible says Judas hung himself. How could he possibly be the rebel/robber on the cross if it says he hung himself? Let's take a look at those passages. In Matthew 27:3-10, it says that Judas was filled with remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. They don't accept his money back, so he throws it in the temple. "Then he went away and hanged himself." (v5) After that, the priests and elders decided that since this money is "blood money" they can't use it for the temple. So they go buy a field to make a burial place for foreigners.

Now, lets look at the second passage about the death of Judas. It's not mentioned in the other gospels, although in chapter 1 in the book of Acts it mentions as kind of a side note about Judas's death in verses 18-19. It says that Judas bought the field with the 30 pieces of silver where he fell headlong, and all his intestines spilled out. Question: If you are hanging by your neck and fall, what hits the ground first, your head or your feet? It says he fell headlong/ headfirst, not feet first. So to me this does not imply that he hung himself.

Woah! Wait a minute. Did the Bible just dispute itself? This question could easily start a huge controversy, because it puts into question those 66 books in which some of us put our faith in, and derive all of our beliefs from. So is the Bible 100% fact? Maybe not. Although I believe there is complete truth in the Bible. I believe the Bible is a compilation of books written over thousands of years about the love of God for man, how man turns from God, and how God still redeems man through His son Jesus. That's how I live with the truth of the Bible.

Moving on, here you have two different accounts on how Judas dies. For whatever reason, one of them has to be false. Here's where my theory comes into play.

John 12:6 says that Judas was the keeper of the money bag and that he would help himself to what was put into it. This makes Judas a thief, because he would steal from the bag of money that was meant for all the disciples. That being said, if you will allow me the liberty to interpret Judas's story it will all come together.

What if, before Judas met Jesus, he was a greedy robber. He would find various ways to rob people because he was greedy with his money. Knowing this, Jesus makes him the treasurer over the disciples to give him a chance to understand that money isn't everything. Having nothing to lose, Judas becomes a follower of Jesus. Judas would hear Jesus teach, watch Him become popular, and begins to believe that Jesus will become the great political King of the Jews. Judas begins to think if Jesus becomes king, and he is the treasurer, that would make him very rich for when that time comes. As time goes on, Judas begins to think that Jesus is going too slow with starting His kingdom so he decides to push Him to speed things up by giving Him over to the authorities. Judas might be thinking that his betrayal could be the jumpstart to Jesus's reign, because it would force Jesus to take action. In contrast Jesus doesn't resist or fight back. Judas is confused. Jesus gets put on trial in the temple, is mocked, and beaten. Seeing this, Judas becomes filled with remorse. Things didn't go as planned. He realizes that maybe Jesus was talking about a different kind of kingdom the whole time. What had he done? Did he just turn in the one true King to be sentenced to death? He can't handle it anymore and turns himself in to the priests. He admits his sin to them (Matt 27:4) and leaves. He then gets seized by the officials outside the temple, since he pledged guilty to his crime. He was then taken to cross to be hung. Therefore, going away and hanging himself (Matt 27:5), since it was him that pleaded guilty. Judas would already be hanging when Jesus is put on the cross next to him. The people begin to mock Jesus, along with the other criminal hanging next to them. Again Judas can't take it anymore. He has to show Jesus he finally believes. He then turns to the other criminal, "Don't you fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom and Your kingly power." Judas, the one who used to call Jesus teacher, now understands His real purpose and calls Him King. Jesus says to him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."

I would say that the gospels wouldn't mention this theory even if it was Judas that was on the cross next to Jesus. I'd imagine that all of the disciples still had bitterness towards Judas when they wrote the gospels, and wanted to end his story with, "he got what he deserved". It says at least 12 times throughout the gospels that Judas was either a traitor, or the one who betrayed Jesus. Almost every mention of Judas is either negative, or is about his betrayal of Jesus. So I'd say it's safe to say they were still bitter about what he did.

Aside from this theory, I doubt anyone believes Judas will be in heaven unless Judas was that robber on the cross. It would be so typical of Jesus to forgive him if it were. That's where, "The first will be last, and the last will be first" comes into play so well (Matt 19:30; 20:8; 20:16; Mark 9:35; 10:31; Luke 13:30). As far as we know, that robber was the first to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was so loving that He would have had the ability to show love to the very one who betrayed Him, while He was in agony, dying on the cross. That is the power of the gospel.

All this is just a theory, and I am leaving it up to you. This may or may not have happened, and most likely not. Either way, I believe if Judas was on the cross next to Jesus, that Jesus would have had the power to forgive even him. So may we go with that same power of love in mind to be able to love those who betray us, even when we are at our lowest point!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Another Lesson While Running

Lesson 2 while running. It feels so good to run into the wind. In the heat of the afternoon, it feels better to have a breeze on your face to cool you off rather than the air to be still. Although this makes things like running more difficult, because the wind is pushing against the rest of your body, making it harder to press forward. I went running this afternoon and God revealed to me this lesson, even though it is almost the exact opposite from the last analogy in the previous post. God keeps things interesting like that for me.

As we live life as Christians we often go against the flow of the things of this world. It is more difficult and is harder work for us, but it feels so refreshing. Different issues and emotions that we normally feel, like anger against our enemies, are so easy to fall into. It is difficult to forgive our enemies, and to love them. It is hard work and sometimes takes years to accomplish. But it feels so refreshing once we are able to forgive and love others. God had mercy on us so we must show mercy, though it's not easy.

So like running into the wind, living a Christ-like lifestyle may not be easy, but it is so refreshing. There is a quote that which I don't know from whom it originated, but it goes well to end this post. "The fish that flow with the current are dead ones."  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Spiritual Health and Wellness

Today I went running for the second time since this winter. As for you runners, you can imagine how it feels. I am really out of shape. I've added over a minute to my pace since last season. My legs were burning the entire time, whereas before I could run with ease. But today, God taught me a lesson through my run. I typically like to pray while I run, and talk to my Father. Sometimes I can hear Him talk back and speak to me. This was one of those cherished and much needed moments. 

Today the wind was strong. Throughout my run I would be running straight into wind gusts of about 20-24mph. For those of you that exercise outdoors, you know how difficult this can be. Add these wind gusts on top of me already being out of shape, I can say, I was in agony. But as a runner I have the drive to not stop until the end. I must keep running until the time is up, and I reach the finish line. 

This analogy has been used many times, but this time I understand it even deeper now: Our physical wellness is just as important as our Spiritual wellness. We have off seasons with our faith sometimes, just like our workout routines. We get too busy with other things and neglect our Spiritual health. We get too busy to pray, too busy to read the Bible, too busy to love others. Today He taught me that even while we are trying to stay in shape, there are things that can hinder us and keep us from staying at the right pace. During our Spiritual workout, things can slow us down and keep us from getting to where we need to be.

 While running today, I would be running against the wind at times. This would be an example of us not listening to the Holy Spirit, and falling into sin. Sin may feel good at the time, like a cool breeze on your face; but during the race it slows us down, makes us work harder, and hurts us rather than helping us. We need to stay away from sin in order to reach our personal best. We must go with the wind and let it push us and drive us to the end. Allow the Wind to help us, make it easier, and keep us on track. Submitting to the Holy Spirit is like running with the wind, it can still be difficult because we don't feel the cool breeze on our face, but He drives us to where we need to be, and pushes us in the right direction. It may not seem easy at the moment, but in the long run He will help us!

I thank you Father for teaching me this. Help us all to follow Your Spirit, so that we can run with You strongly until the end!

(Disclaimer: While running, we sometimes still have to run against the wind to stay on course, in which case this specific analogy doesn't apply. The analogy of running against the wind and having to stay on course is different lesson for another time.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Looking for a Sign

"A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah."- Matthew 16:4

Jesus replied with this to the Pharisees and Sadducees when they asked Him to give them a sign from heaven. I ask God for signs many times for guidance or direction in a situation. Jesus gave many signs throughout His ministry on Earth, so I believe we can certainly expect more through the Holy Spirit. But the Pharisees and Sadducees were testing Jesus, and pushed Him to try and prove Himself. They were blind to all the signs and teachings that had already happened. Jesus said they will be given the signs of Jonah.

"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. " -Matthew 12:40-41

It seems Jesus was saying that the only chance of them seeing a sign was for them to witness His death and resurrection. Only then would their hearts soften to repent and believe in who He is. 


Jesus died, rose from the dead, and gave us an advocate to be with us and help us share the love of Christ. That advocate is the Holy Spirit. We are given gifts through the Spirit to enable us to show signs of great love to our neighbors and enemies, that we could not show on our own.

So what does this all mean now? Well, to me it means that we should be the sign for our generation. People should be able to see the finished work of Jesus Christ through us in how we react to others, and through our lifestyles. So I encourage you to submit to the Holy Spirit to be a sign to this generation, and make people wonder how you can love others so radically!


Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Deepest Apologies

I would like to take a moment to apologize on behalf of myself and fellow believers. I am apologizing to whoever is reading this. I am asking for forgiveness for the way we as Christians have treated everyone. Yes, we are hypocrites. We go to church, and as soon as we leave we start sinning like we did before we went in. We don’t treat others with love. We pick others apart and point out the flaws in another’s lifestyle. We talk bad about others behind their back. We break the law with no guilt on our conscience, like speeding for example. We drive by the person walking on the side of the road on a cold night not even thinking twice about offering them a ride. We say we will pray for someone and go about our day possibly even forgetting to pray, even though that person was just in front of us and we had the opportunity to do so then. We rant and rave about injustice and unfairness that occurred against us, and how we desire revenge on the ones who mistreated us. Most all of us have an addiction of some sort that we feel we cannot break, even if that addiction is caffeine. We also like to take Scripture out of context and use it to justify our worldly pleasures.

Yes, I apologize for all of these things, but I will not apologize for Who we believe in. We all claim to follow Jesus, whether or not we act like Jesus is another thing. That is the reason for this apology. We claim to follow Jesus and believe in His teachings, but we don’t show it through our actions. Don’t get Jesus confused with those who say they follow Him. I encourage you to actually read the entire Bible for yourself. Only then will you actually see Jesus for who really He is. Although, there are a few moments that we as Christians get it right, and will do something Christ-like. You will be able to tell when that happens because you will see an act of love that is so radical that it will go against the normal flow of the world. It will be a moment when you wonder how someone could show such compassion for a stranger or enemy, or someone of a lower social class. You will be in aw of the mercy shown for someone who doesn’t deserve it by the worldly standards. You may even see someone or yourself be healed in the name of Jesus!

So, I ask for forgiveness for all those moments that aren’t Christ-like and hope that you can put all that aside so that you may see the mercy, truth, and love that can only come from Jesus.