Thursday, June 26, 2008

Being Superman in the Spirit

Personally, I believe Christians don't put enough effort into their walk of faith, more specifically, their sanctification. Seems we're just waiting to become holy. As if one day we'll wake up and suddenly be perfect. I wish, but for some reason, God didn't ordain it that way. Instead, He made it a life long walk that is never easy but always possible, with His help of course. I'll admit, we can't make ourselves any holier than we were before, but that doesn't mean we sit on our bottoms and watch our walk stroll on by.

Alright, I don't know where this rant is going but I'll continue on. From personal observation of myself and other Christians, I've seen that we tend to lack in the spiritual disciplines. I mean, who even knows what that phrase means!? The disciplines are helpful tools in spiritual growth such as bible study, bible meditation, scripture memorization, prayer, accountability, and I'm sure numerous more. But even with those few, how well do we fare out? Being honest, I'm not too hot.

Again, what on earth am I getting at? I'm just trying to figure out what's keeping us from disciplining ourselves spiritually. Paul specifically tells us that godliness will not just come about, it must be worked on. "Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." - 1 Tim. 4:7-8. What a picture? We train for godliness in the same way we would train our physical bodies. It's hard, it's painful, but in the end, it's for our greatest benefit, being found in the likeness of our Lord.

So, I suppose I'll leave you with an admonition, even though I think I always do that. What makes you lack in your training? What tends to come before your godly exercise and discipline? Whatever it is, I know it isn't worth what will be gained if we faithfully adhere to Paul's advice. I suppose he was attempting to save us from his own fear that he admits to us in 1 Cor. 9:27..."But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." Let's not disqualify ourselves, rather let us train ourselves " the words of the faith and of the good doctrine."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Crippled Beggars, Dead Dogs, and Myself

"What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?"- 2 Sam. 9:8

Have you ever read the story of David and Mephibosheth? I've come to see that it isn't the most popular Old Testament story. I mean there's stories of rivers parting, wars galore, fish swallowing humans, how can this small and seemingly insignificant story compare? To be honest, this insignificant story has changed my complete outlook on how I relate to God. Yep, it did that much.

For a little overview, the story starts with David seeking relatives of Saul. Because of his previous covenant made with Johnathan, David desires to show kindness for Johnathan's namesake. After some searching, it is revealed that there is one, a son of Johnathan, who is crippled in both legs. When summoned, Mephibosheth lies at David's feet wondering why this great king would regard someone as lowly as himself. Instead on nurturing Mephibosheth ideas, David gives him everything his grandfather Saul owned. Not only did he give Mephibosheth basically everything, but he proclaimed that Mephibosheth would eat at his table always.

This could have been just a historical account that was recorded, but as someone who tries to draw comparisons into everything observable, I did so with this account as well. This story, this beautiful record of grace and mercy, is somewhat in my opinion symbolic of the grace and mercy God Himself bestows on sinful, crippled dogs such as ourselves. First, just as David seeks out Mephibosheth, God seeks out us. Romans 3:11 plainly says, "No one seeks after God." Instead, Jesus says it clear as crystal in John 6:44, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him." Just as Mephibosheth wondered, every single day I can't help but wonder why God would show loving regard to someone like myself. Paul describes my thoughts exactly, "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom.5:6-8)

After lying at Christ's feet, not only does He give us new life, but He gives us eternal life, an eternal invitation at His table. And lastly, as crippled beggars, we won't walk with pride into His presence. Instead, He carries us. He's always carried us. And frankly, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else except in the hole-stricken hands of my Savior.

Great story huh? I told you so.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Case for Faith

Will all the doubters please stand up? Skeptics raise your hands! Lee Strobel is the writer for all who identify. He's probably more famously, or infamously, known for his book The Case for Christ, which was also quite the read. While Christ was great, it didn't affect me as much since I didn't need to examine the case for Him. Christ isn't the problem in my personal bout with doubt. I am. My faith is the problem. Thus Faith was more in my direction.

Just like in his other book, Strobel goes on a year long quest, conducting several interviews with the greatest Christian thinkers of our time, and seeks to present or destroy the case for faith. Strobel takes eight of the main arguments against faith in God, and boldly confronts experts in the objections. To pehaps spark a desire to read it, here are the eight arguments Strobel centers his book around:
  1. Since Evil and Suffering Exist, a Loving God Cannot
  2. Since Miracles Contradict Science, They Cannot be True
  3. Evolution Explains Life, so God Isn't Needed
  4. God Isn't Worthy of Worship if He Kills Innocent Children
  5. It's Offensive to Claim Jesus is the Only Way to God
  6. A Loving God Would Never Torture People in Hell
  7. Church History is Littered with Oppression and Violence
  8. I Still Have Doubts, So I Can't be a Christian
Each objection is carefully examined and thoroughly explained by each interviewee. The only problem I find generally with Strobel's books is that he only interviews Christians, which gives his cases somewhat of a partial view. It seems as if he conducts these cases with the goal of getting positive answers, which he will if he asks the "right" people. I'd enjoy it more if he were to take each objection and perhaps interview an unbeliever and a believer, both experts in their fields. Obviously most Christians wouldn't see this problem, but many an agnostic or atheist has pointed this error out in Strobel's writings. However, if an unbeliever discards previous notions and assumptions, these arguments are quite compelling and give great evidence, if you will, of God's existence and faith's ability to trust Him.

Regardless, Case for Faith is another great investigation from Strobel that does wonderfully in compelling any open minded unbeliever and reassuring any skeptical and doubting Christian. If you identify yourself in either of these positions, I recommend this and practically any of Strobel's works. Happy reading.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The American Nightmare

"When success is equated with excess, the ambition for excess wrecks us." - Switchfoot (from "American Dream")

There are few things that annoy me, really few. In fact, I could probably number them on one hand. Materialism would be one. I refuse to sit on a high pedestal and claim that I don't fall under this American misconception, I do. And so does everyone else. However, I would like us to stop for one moment in our ever busy lives and think. Here's my question:

Why is that where material things are viewed most precious, Christ is subsequently viewed as nothing more than trash?

Odd question, I'm sure. But try and hear me out. America, the most "Christian" nation on the planet is also the most materialistic. And because of the latter truth, the former truth has essentially become false. Our nation's colors are red, white, blue...and green. And though I hate to admit it, green has become the most prevalent.
Spurgeon, one of my Christian heroes, once said, "You say, 'If I had a little more, I should be satisfied.' You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled." The problem is that we fall into a circular maze that never ends. We want more, we get more, and we want more. However, I have to believe that there is something more than having everything in this life, that the best things in life aren't things after all. Where is the answer?

Matthew 6:19-20 gives the solution to the American nightmare of materialism, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on the earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven..." What better answer can there be? How can we fall off this hamster wheel of excess and materialism? By valuing things of God more than the things of this world. I know the answer to Christ's question when He asked what the man who gains the world really profits. He profits nothing. The world will pass away, leaving that man destitute and empty in the next life. But the one who finds ultimate pleasure in the ultimate treasure, Jesus Christ, they are the ones who have profited everything!

All this to say, we've been duped into believing that success is excess, but this misconception in the end wrecks us. Christ is the only solution, the only answer. The American Dream is nothing more than a nightmare and Christ is the only treasure that can awaken us from it.