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Living In Such A Way That Darkness Flees

Christians are called to be “salt and light”. I wrote a lengthy post on that in November; however, I never saw what the response was to that until a while back. The unintended consequences of being myself left one feeling guilty and another running away.

In the first experience, it was during a conversation while watching TV at one guy’s place. A commercial about a reality show featured a naked girl getting butt-waxed. The wall became very interesting to me for a little bit.

He asked if I would like that job. No actually, I’m married. Then he got quiet and in a low voice said, “I wouldn’t do nothing, or anything.” It was not until later that I realized was salt being applied. Ever gargle with salt water and it hits a cold sore? Hurts a bit, doesn’t it? I had applied it inadvertently because of my new nature.

During the second experience, I was at work talking to my friend Eric, and we got deep into spiritual matters. One of the guys who had come in for overtime walked over to listen. Almost as fast as he arrived, he ran back to his station. It happened twice that night. We weren’t preaching at him, it was just him listening to a theological conversation between the two of us. Quickly a verse came to mind:

 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3: 19-21

It goes deeper than that. I was reading a book by J.B. Phillips titled Your God Is Too Small. It starts by dealing with misperceptions of God that are inadequate. Then in the next section, he writes about what makes God more than adequate. In the section “If God were Focused (1)”, a paragraph stuck out to me as he explained what God would be like as a man:

“We need not expect that A, like some religious reformers in history, will go about denouncing men as ‘miserable sinners’. Indeed there would be no need for that. Insincerity always feels uncomfortable in the presence of  sincerity, unreality in the presence of reality, and selfishness in the presence of love. We may expect then that in the presence of a morally complete man, a good deal of spiritual discomfort will be spontaneously aroused, sometimes dully and sometimes acutely. Some men will be stimulated to an intense hunger for wholeness, but some would be angered and resentful and determined either to get out range of this cause of their discomfort or to get rid of it.”

That was the response to Jesus, loved or hated, he made people uncomfortable. This applies to us as Christians in this way:

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4: 22-24 NIV

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12: 2 NIV

matthew5.13-15.scripturePhoto_lgAs the Holy Spirit works on us (Philippians 1: 6), we will be transformed more like Christ. That will begin to have an effect on those around you. Some may leave, and some may ask you about the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). It’s God in us that draws and repels as long as we act in lovingkindness without condemnation. It would be too easy to excuse a bad attitude if we don’t act that way.

Just get deeper into life with God and the salt and light will come.

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Your Life Can Make A Difference

I would like you to take a moment and reflect on where you’re at in life’s journey. Got it? Now look back at the time you started, the ups and the downs. Pretty good, huh? Now my question is what are you doing with that wealth of information.

It was a slow night at work for me. Slow for me means no one is calling me to the floor and every time I make my rounds there wasn’t anything needing inspected. Sitting in the office, I brought up the WordPress reader and started exploring the blogs.

I came across one by a new Christian who was just a ‘few weeks old’. In other words, he had just been saved. He was struggling and I commented on his post dealing with what he thought was God angry with him and a divide between them. He was going through some spiritual warfare so I began to keep up with his posts with advice and encouragement where needed.

At a restaurant, a week later, a surprisingly deep conversation came up between me and one of the teenagers. They also felt like the busyness of life was getting in the way between them and God. It’s a problem that occasionally springs up for me as well. I listened, offered advice, and shifted the conversation when they were getting uncomfortable. Opening up is not easy.

I didn’t help because I think I am an expert. It’s not a scholarly background that the information comes from. It comes from going through similar situations, taking the hits, and coming out of it.

You are a wealth of information. The low times of your life just prepare you to help someone later. Think of it as training and testing you for it.

Use the experience and lessons to be a positive voice in others’ lives.

 

Wayne Coyne

Loneliness, A Beatable Enemy

About a year ago, I wrote a post on loneliness. I learned that going it mostly alone sucks. Even I get tired of my company and I think I am brilliant…sometimes. I was walking around with a ‘bubble’ up, a little barrier of “don’t talk to me” all over my body language.

It sucks in that bubble.

So I stepped out of it to find many people at church willing to meet me halfway. I’m not a huggy person, still not really; however, I’m much more comfortable with them. I have to be, everyone hugs everyone it seems. Sometimes I will even hug someone.

It’s not a bad thing outside the bubble. Especially with the holidays that just ended. Many lonely people during that time and for once, I was not one of them. I had gained friends.

On top of that, the confidence to hold conversations with people I do not really know grew. I could talk to the ladies in the nursery about how good the fudge from Kilwins is. At the church’s winter festival, Christmas Lane, I served and spoke with a family working on the same team. The oldest daughter was trying to give away her little brother. After it was all over, I sat comfortably listening to Pastor Rod telling us the behind the scenes bloopers of a sermon video involving the pie-face game.

Before, I would have been looking for the door. People seem more willing to open up to me oddly enough considering my mostly expressionless face. I am also more willing to reach out to my hurting friends. Someone I know is around every corner, it seems.

If I can give you one takeaway from this, it is this:

  1. Meet someone and listen.
  2. Repeat.

Your willingness to listen to them will make them more willing to listen to you.

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How Well Do You See Those Around You?

What do you know about the people you work with? A little bit at the very least. What about the person you see once every week? Have you looked at someone without seeing them?

I have two neighbors here, I rarely say much to them. I have helped them both, but I haven’t truly seen them. They are pretty much a mystery to me; I don’t know their hopes, dreams, or fears. Only recently did I learn that one was a recent widow.

I looked but did not see. Almost every Saturday the past year, I worked with the homeless and poor. Other than Ken and Julius, I cannot tell you much about the others. Marianne, who leads the ministry can rattle off answers to any question asked about them.

I was walking through the River Market and I saw two guys talking to a homeless man. They saw him and did what Jesus did (John 9) by addressing two needs. First was his physical need, they bought him food where Jesus healed the blind man (John 9: 6-7). Then they prayed for him, which addressed his spiritual needs. Jesus did the same to the former blind man in John 9:35-38.

I need eyes like that, and a willingness to not be so rigid with my calendar. It’s the Golden Rule in action again. The one day I got to hunt last season, I had a chance to help a stranger.

He was an older gentleman who had shot a deer up on the top of a steep, brush-covered mountain. He asked for help and I accepted. In those few hours, I have to see him as he shared stories of his years in the mountains we hunt. Learned of his faith, childhood, and even his fear of dying out there without anyone knowing where he was.

How many people do we see with that much clarity every day? On the other hand, are you like me and so wrapped up in your thoughts that people are sometimes just an observation for you? Maybe wrapped up in the day-to-day and not considering what they may be going through, instead viewing them as an inconvenience.

I have been brought a long way. The Holy Spirit is steadily working on the renovations inside me. However, I still have a long way to go.

 

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The Questions We All Face

What’s wrong with the world? Is it ever going to change? I looked on CNN’s website to see headlines about corrupt countries, earthquakes, arson, and refugees fleeing violence in their countries. Everything is obviously broken.

It even hits close to home. Abusive relationships, illness, job loss, family and friends going down a dangerous path to name a few. Other people’s problems are easier to overlook than our own. Whose fault is it? Is anyone even at fault?

In a Twitter debate, I saw a comment from the ‘sidelines’ about God screwing up. “Maybe version 2.0,” they sneered. Funny they should mention that. It reminded me of some verses that I will get to in a moment. First, it’s a problem every worldview has to deal with. Every intellectually honest person has to answer these four questions:

  1. Where did we come from?
  2. Why are we here?
  3. What is wrong with the world?
  4. How can we fix it?

Have you considered the answers? Follow along with me, if we got here by luck (Q1) then there isn’t a reason for you. You are just an accident (Q2), chaos is norm, and we all return to dust. We breed and then we die (Q3), and even that is meaningless.

How depressing is that? I would be cynical and sarcastic again myself. The comment made me smile, though. Everything is going to end, that is true. The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us everything is winding down. Entropy is the end that awaits. Yay.

Consider this: Question 1 is answered in Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Question 2 is answered in Genesis 1: 27-28 and Ephesians 1: 4-5.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will”

The answer to the third question is that we’re what are wrong with the world. We do as we will, are in it for ourselves trying to get ‘what’s mine’, and no one better cross us. I know, I spent years building monuments to myself.

How do we fix it?

Problem is, we can’t. Remember, it’s all ticking down. There is an answer and a hope. The answer to the last question is a person. Luke 19: 10 tells us that. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He is a historical person who walked the earth and disappeared after he was killed. What happened is debated but a majority of historical scholars admits he’s real.

That is part of my hope. He worked miracles, spoke of absolutes, said that everyone has value, and backed it up in his interactions and sacrifice. Through that death, there is a path to redemption. He is the present hope.

The future hope, “Earth 2.0” is actually biblical. 2,775 years ago the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore” in Isaiah 65:17.

Why is it taking so long, though?

Close to a millennium later, Peter wrote the answer.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.” 2 Peter 3: 8-15 NIV

There is a hope and a part to play for us. It’s ticking down but we do not have to go with it. God’s patience won’t last forever and we will not see it coming. Follow Jesus, it is how we can be spotless and at peace. That is what you can do.

What do you have to look forward to?

A second chance, the old you, and one day the old earth will be gone and the new will arrive.

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” Revelation 21:1

The God so many wonder if exists will live with us.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:3

No more mourning, or illness. There will be no sadness, no tears. All we think is wrong with the world will be gone. Cancer in all its forms will be eradicated.

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

There is hope. Do you have hope?

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Who Can You Trust When People Keep Letting You Down?

I hear a lot about Millennials, I may even be one or a Gen-Xer, I’m not sure which, and one thing the younger generation is good at is their B.S. Meters in day-to-day life. Ravi Zacharias, in a Just Thinking podcast, spoke of the teens and young adults in Canada just wanting someone to believe in. That was their top concern over poverty and environment. The thing is people will fail us.

One day, I listened to someone say they wished one thing had happened to a person. Two weeks earlier, I had watched him help the guy avoid the consequence he was now saying he wished had happened. Was it said for the benefit of the audience?

It does make it harder for me to believe him now. I carry that to the logical conclusion and I’ll end up not trusting him at all. That takes us back to Ravi’s findings and a passage that came to mind.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” James 1: 22-24 NIV

At the core, James was writing about a lack of a foundation. Rather than standing by our actions, we do one thing and say another. Consistency is lacking these days, easy proof of that is politics and reality TV.

Have you examined yourself to see where you’re noticeably consistent with your values and principles? Does it depend on which group you’re with now?

I fail often, some recorded here. I don’t trust in anyone to not fall short. I do trust in one

who hasn’t failed me, the Cornerstone that is Jesus. Isaiah 28: 16 reads that any who ‘rely on him will not be stricken with panic.’

Peter and John before the Sanhedrin warned the religious leaders to “know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” in Acts 4: 10-12.

What do you stand on? Whom can you trust?

 

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One Move A Day; My Training Sweet Spot?

It’s been six weeks of this as my training template:

  • Monday: Get-Ups (groundwork)
  • Tuesday: Swings (hinge pattern)
  • Wednesday: Clean & Press (push pattern)
  • Thursday: Goblet and Front Squats (squat pattern)
  • Friday: Overhead/Rack/Farmer’s Carry (loaded carry)

 

And I’ve loved it. Even hitting a half-get up with the 71lb kettlebell. As I progressed from two-hand swings as a warm up  and one-hand for the work to now double swings, I’m gaining respect for double kettlebells. The time has been expanding with the overhead carries. I plan on continuing this for another six weeks.

Depending on body comp we’ll see about diet. I have a plan in my pocket.

Let’s see what that’s done for body composition.

Body Composition (inches)

Body Part                      Before                  After                   -/+

Neck                               14.12                14.                 -.12

Shoulders                      43.50                  43.25              -.25

Chest                              38                 38                     0

Waist                             33.5               33.5                    0

Biceps                           12.62             12.62                  0

Forearms                      10.82            10.82               0

Thighs                         21.5                 22            +0.5

Calves                          13.5                13.75            +.25

Weight                       154.4lbs          157.6        +3.2lbs

Body Fat %                17.8%                18.1%         +0.3%

Lean Body Mass    126.9lbs            129.2        +2.3lbs

The body comp seems to be waving up and down. The plan was to increase strength and stimulate hypertrophy. The training template is working. The diet needs a change though, I’ll play with intermittent fasting again, maybe lean gains.

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The Problem and Solution of the World

5799440Sometimes we’re shockingly reminded of the evil in the world. I sat in our office listening to my supervisor read aloud the articles from the attack in Paris as it unfolded. In defiance and support, people on Facebook rallied with profile picture changes and threats. I sat, rather unsurprised, considering it all.

It’s a problem that starts with the darkness in an individual’s heart (Romans 6:19) that multiplies exponentially with every person added to the world. We all struggle with it and tragedies happen when someone gives into it like in Paris.

“So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7: 14-20 NLT

The only way to eliminate evil is to remove free will from everyone. No one has the freedom to choose love or hate. However, with our autonomy in place we’ll continue to fight against it.

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am!” Romans 7: 21-24

Have you ever been in a moral dilemma or had to choose between the lesser of two evils? In a quiet moment faced the darkness inside of you. Or had to apologize for hurting others? What can be done about it?

Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” Romans 7: 24-25

You kill it before it kills you.

 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past,  for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Romans 3: 22-26

“In fact, it says,

“The message is very close at hand;
    it is on your lips and in your heart.”

And that message is the very message about faith that we preach:  If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” Romans 10: 8-10

Jesus takes the punishment due to you and me freely if we let him. To get an idea of how radical that is, consider this: remember how you felt seeing the Paris attack. Now you find yourself the judge in the terrorist’s trial and their future is in your hands. They’re evidently guilty, no evidence is needed to even be presented, and they stand in front of you awaiting your verdict.

What would you do to them?

Instead of death or prison, imagine you served their sentences for them and then pardoned them. Insane, huh? They don’t deserve it and they should die. “For the wages of sin is death…” as recognized in Romans 6: 23.

What if they are sorry, promising they wouldn’t do it again and truly meant it? Punishment is due, a debt is owed, and so would you take that upon yourself and pardon them? That is what Jesus did for anyone willing to turn away from his or her dark nature and follow him.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5: 6-10 NIV

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8: 1-2 NIV

Then begins the process to pull us out of our holes called sanctification, something I go into →here. Except we don’t do it to earn anything or pay back a debt. We do it in gratitude. Imagine your largest debt. How thankful would you be if someone paid it off free and clear?

As the old nature is diminished and the new is being revealed we see our responses are changing. Impatience gives way to patience, unforgiveness gives way to mercy, and hate gives way to love, and so on. Two things are happening that deal with many of the world’s problems.

  1. First is our identity struggles, especially in a highly individualized culture like mine. That problem is settled for me now. I am not defined by what I do, have done, or live for something temporary that will be dust in the end. I may not always be a writer, I won’t always have my family, but I will always be a new person in Christ, an adopted son of God. Because I want to do this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” I can give myself more easily to writing, family, and friends. My identity does not hinge on that so I can be fully there.
  2. Secondly, if we loved our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) like Jesus commanded, we would not do anything to hurt them. The Golden Rule makes sure we cannot use ‘neighbor’ as a loophole. The entire Moral Law that is in the 10 Commandments is encompassed in those two commands and the Golden Rule puts it into action. You wouldn’t kill, take advantage of, or want what others have if you loved like you’re supposed to. If you do, then you’re being disobedient. Doing it would end many problems in the world.

It’s hard, impossible even, and when a true follower of Christ fails, it results in becoming repentant. Then they grow from it. We have help from the Holy Spirit, though.

“The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature] So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” Romans 8: 3-17 NLT

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” Romans 8: 26-27

The problem of evil is solved by first realizing the darkness in our hearts. The fact we

recognize it means we acknowledge a transcendent, objective good. Because it is a transcendent perfect standard, we cannot reach it ourselves. Knowing this, God made the way for us. Jesus, either as Savior or Judge, solves the problem of evil; it is an unavoidable choice.