Thursday, January 24, 2013

Was it relating?

I know I wrote about  relating to our culture a week back or so, but last night talking with my wife I came up with another interesting idea.  God himself created a way to relate to the people when He asked them to build the tabernacle.  I had never quite thought of it that way, but we can't possibly think that God is all present now and wasn't all present then.  We have record of Him speaking to various people throughout that time period.

The people of that time obviously wanted something physical to worship, just like later they wanted a physical king to rule over them.  All the other cultures of that day were worshiping idols and had physical representations of their gods.  They had places of worship and were very "religious" to keep their god happy. 

When Moses came down and saw the golden calf the Israelites had created while he and God were together, I can only imagine what Moses was thinking. God however was quick to come up with a way to give them what they desired in hopes that it would help them relate to Him.  He had them build a place where they could be "religious" and have a place to come before God. 

Makes me wonder if this was all part of His original plan or if it was just another way of relating to us humans in a way we could understand.  Ultimately like  we normally do we go to the extreme and really miss what God was doing.

It had always been my assumption that God wanted to have a place to dwell amongst His people, but why would God want it that way then and now make Himself available to everyone.  Looking at how many people God interacted with and spoke to that were outside of this tabernacle makes me curious as to if God has put other "tabernacles" in my life trying to find a way to relate to me. 

If God is really all about relationship, He always has been.  God doesn't change.  Relationships happen when people find a way to relate to each other.  Is God trying to find a way to relate to you and I?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Seeing things differently

I know I wrote something like this a while back, but it's part of where I am right now so I thought I would share. 

As most of you probably know I have started photographing people a lot more recently.  I really enjoy doing it, and the extra money on the side always helps. 

In trying to learn how to get better at photographing I have spent quite a bit of time looking at others photographs, watching photographers talk about photography on Youtube, and even watching a photographer in person. One of the things I have learned is that you have to really see things differently.  You can't just go about life looking at things the way you always have, but rather you have to learn to look at the lighting, the background, and the elements that will be in the picture.  It's not easy to do what the professionals do.

In the journey I have began a process of really trying to see things differently myself.  I want to learn how to see light and the beauty it creates.  The way a photographer uses the light is a large percentage of what makes a photograph beautiful to those who are looking at it. 

As I begin to slow down and really look at things and try to really see what is right in front of me, I can begin to see beauty that I have missed before.  My wife will tell you that it is very wasy for me to miss things that are right in front of my face.  I overlook some of the most obvious things because I am too busy with what I perceive as big picture, that I miss things of importance sometimes.

I don't really like new year's resolutions, but I am striving this year to learn to see the beauty in the things God has put right before me.  I am not meaning just in a sense of taking photos, but rather even in my everyday life, the things I take for granted.

I also find it interesting as I think about the subject, that Christ called Himself the Light of the World.  I know He was referencing the fact that He will help us see through the darkness and lies and make it so that we have a path to follow, but what if it meant so much more.  What if it also meant that He would help us see the beauty in others.  He could take what seems so "ordinary" and make it beautiful.  Maybe it's time we start looking for the Light in more ways than just to see where we are going.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Truth is...

The Truth is....

I have been pondering those 3 words for a while now.  It seems like the older I get and more I feel like I understand, the more I realize I don't know and understand.

There is this whole theory out there right now surrounding the Sandy Hook shooting.  It speaks of how the government could be behind it and how a lot of things just don't add up.  A couple people put together a video that has now gotten close to 10 Million views. 

I'll admit I watched it.  I found it interesting and quite compelling. 

How do we know the truth?

The truth in our country seems to matter very little.  I know the government lies to us.  I imagine is was similar to the way we sometimes try to hide things from our kids in order to protect them.  While it may have seemed like a good idea at the time, without knowing the truth our thoughts, ideas, and rational can easily be confused.

I think about my understanding of the Bible and want it means to follow Christ.  It has come so far over the last few years.  It has changed so much.  What I thought was truth was far from it. What made our churches here venture so far from what the original church looked like?  Why do we do so many things so differently?  Few will take the time to truly understand the context of the Bible and its writings and yet we try to apply it to our lives.  I trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to teach us regardless of our current understanding, but what if we are trying to learn in our own power and not relying on the Holy Spirit?  Do we still miss the truth because of our own perception?

The purpose of this blog for me has always been to understand more of truth and to express how my views have and do change over time.  If I continue to learn I will be able to more clearly see what is truth. 

Sometimes I fear that my perception of what is real is far off kilter.  It is hard to distinguish truth from perceived reality.  Maybe that is why Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..."  Could He have really meant that we can always find truth in who He is and that by following His way we can actually have a life outside of our own perception?

I pray that God will reveal His truth.  I don't want to get caught up in my own perceptions of reality and (based on a statement I heard earlier this week) chase mice while lions are tearing up the town.  I want to know what God's truth is.  I want to see what He sees.

I came across this song a few weeks ago that speaks to this idea, the thoughts from yesterday, and just a big portion of my past. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Do you trust me?

The last few days have been interesting. Not bad.  Just interesting.  I spent a big portion of Saturday with a friend who was photographing a wedding.  I don't know that I really want to be a wedding photographer, but I have one to shoot this summer and I want to be prepared for it.  I want to be able to give the client the best work I can provide.

It was a great experience.  I enjoyed every minute of it.  Watching someone who really knows what they are doing work a camera and move to get every shot was intriguing. 

As we talked and he showed me his equipment I began to realize how much equipment he had and how he used most of it to create shots and high quality pictures that are beyond my limitation.  I wouldn't say that I was envious. I would just say that it was a little overwhelming when it came to looking at my limitations compared to his.  (Keep in mind I do know that it is the photographer that makes the great shot, not the equipment)

Over the next couple days I realized my car was going to need some work done, and our second car was acting a little funny. Then based on Obama's new tax hikes, cell phone bills going up, and the current state of the economy things were going to be a bit tighter than I had hoped.

This happens to me every year it seems.  I go for a long time letting things just go and be as they are. Then for some reason I feel stress from what seems like things piling up.  I get worked up and sometimes I even begin to physically start to feel sick.

That is how I felt.

I felt discouraged.  I felt defeated.  I felt like life was always going to be a struggle to get up. 

On Tuesday, as I was driving I just felt like God was saying.... "Do you trust me?" 

Of course I believe I trust God.  I want to trust God.  I wasn't trusting God. 

He asked me a second time, "Do you trust me?"

Over and Over He asked me, "Do you trust me?"

As I thought about it, I began to remember all of my blog posts that I have written about how God has done things in my life that prove His existence.  Things that have happened to me, that I have no explanation for other than God made it happen that way. 

When I realized I could trust God and that my issue was that I was struggling believing that I could, a huge weight was lifted from my sholders.  It wasn't that He had done anything to prove it. I just knew His hand was there and that I didn't have to worry.

Needless to say, He has been working since then.  He reminded me of something that helped an issue with one car, He used my Dad to help me with my other car, and He used my wife to help comfort me in knowing that He has taken care of us this far and I just have to be patient and wait on Him.

Monday, January 14, 2013

To argue....or not

I am writing this based on the fact that I have had similar questions asked recently by multiple people.  I've even spent a couple hours watching a group of "believers" argue with another person over the topic.

The issue at hand, is how to do you talk to an Athiest about God.  Many (not all) are well educated and have done a lot of research to back up why they believe God cannot exist.  One approach I havn't seen many take, is the one that I am proposing. 

First and foremost, you can never win a "logical" or "intellectual" debate with someone who says God doesn't exist. I would recon it to Jesus talking about how the sick go to the doctor. If the person doesn't believe they are "sick" and need a "doctor" your points will be mute. Many of their "logical" explanations can't be argued without having an in depth understanding of each of the topics they want to discuss.

Your only real answer to someone who wants to debate is your own story. Even then it's not really a debate, but rather a journey. The Bible is full of stories and for good reason. They teach us about other people and their struggles and successes. They also teach us about the power of one's story. If you know your story and can share you story and what God has done, it doesn't really matter what point they are trying to make. They can't take your story from you and you can share what God has done in your life.

There is so much more than just believing that there is a God. Rather it is believing God...believing Jesus. Even the demons believe IN Jesus. Our story takes our believing Jesus and makes it real...makes it personal. It is our proof that there is a God and that He is a personal God.

Share your story, be a good friend, and love the person. Often times it is through that love that the friendship grows stronger. The friendship will lead to a strong relationship that will allow you to share your story. The story is your proof that God exists. Your story is the what will help them believe that they need the true "doctor."

Friday, January 11, 2013

Doing it wrong?

I've had a question running through my head the last couple days.  Are we doing it wrong?  Ok, so you are probably wondering what "it" is.  What "it," is relating the gospel to our culture.  Let me explain.

In Acts you can see where Paul adapted the gospel to meet the people where they were.  There was a group of people who had gods for just about everything.  They had so many gods, that they even had one known as the "unknown god."  Paul stepped in and said the unknown god was the God that he followed.  In-fact, this God was the only God.  He took something that the people know and related God in a way they could understand.

The same thing happened with Christmas and the Christmas tree. Yes, it has to do with Jesus' birth, but both were placed in relation to pagan holidays and traditions to help people relate to the one true God.

You can find countless stories such as this. You can even hear stories that are taking place today in other countries.  We send missionaries over seas and give them free reign to present the gospel in a way people can understand.

Yet...we refuse to do that in America.  We refuse to teach the gospel in a way people can relate to.  America is different than it was 20 to 50 years ago, yet so many churches want to continue practicing their religion the same way they always have instead of trying to help people see God. 

I am sure I am guilty of this.  I know there are things that I do and say that really mean very little to those who don't know God.  It doesn't relate.  It doesn't move them.

I wonder what would happen if instead of being different or doing things the same we tried to reach people where they were.  We looked at our culture, found out what the people identified with, looked for their "gods" and began teaching them about the one true God and how it relates to them where they are.  It works it other countries.  Why would we expect to relate the gospel in one country, yet conformity to age old traditions here?

Could that be a piece of the puzzle as to why a lot of our methods seem to be failing?  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Is it really required?

I have been doing a lot of research lately on the subject of Baptism. I know there are several different and varying opinions on the subject. When I read yesterday that an author I really like believe it was important, I decided I needed to put my thoughts together and express them.

Now, I would never say that baptism isn't important.  I think it is important, but I don't think it is necessary.  At least not when you are talking about a water baptism.

You can go through and try to pull out verses here and there that really do a good job of trying to justify whatever view you might have, but based on the overall picture of the Bible and my own personal experience I have developed my current view on the subject.

Now, I could go into scripture and quote and quote and quote different verses, but I am not going to do that.  I want to talk more about the history of Baptism and how that relates to us.

Baptism in the Jewish tradition was something that took place monthly.  It was important.  It was so important that often times a new "baptistry" was one of the first things built when a new synagogue was built.  (It wasn't actually called a "baptistry")  There were a lot of rules and requirements for the "baptistry" and one would submerse themselves rather than someone else submersing them. 

When the "Christians" of that day began to baptize people they were breaking a lot of those rules.  Instead of baptizing people in the Jewish tradition, they were now baptizing people into the family of God.  The whole phrase, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," actually meant that as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit witness, you are now in "The Family." 

That baptism cost the person being baptized a lot if they were part of the Jewish tradition.  Most of the time it would cost them pretty much everything.  So truly their baptism was an expression of complete faith in God and was a statement saying they trusted Him with their life.

It was not that way for me.  My water baptism didn't cost me anything.  While it was an expression of my commitment and my faith to my fellow believers in the scheme of things, it didn't even begin to reflect the baptism that was spoken of in the Bible.

If I wanted to pin point my "real" baptism, I would say it happened my first semester of college.  I was going to school to study computer science.  There was money in computers.  I would get a decent job and never have to worry about providing for my family and I would be doing something I thought I would enjoy.  It would be the easy route for me.

During a revival that semester, God called me to something different.  He asked me to give up what I wanted and follow Him into music ministry.  He asked me to give up the stability and money that the computer field could provide and pursue a degree in a field that pays very little.  Not only that, but I wasn't much of a musician.  I didn't even really know what all that degree change would entail.

That change cost me a lot. It cost me "my future," my comfort, the direction for my life.  I had to say, "ok God, I trust you.  You are going to have to help me through this, I don't know what I am doing."

So when I look back at my life and a point when I had to identify myself with Christ, this is the time for me.  I know it doesn't compare to what He actually did for us, but as Christ taught, it is what is in the heart that matters.  We can't earn His gift, we can only accept it.  Accepting it by believing Jesus.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Meaning of L

Alright, so before we get too far into this, I want to clarify that the title is actually "Meaning of Lord," but I wanted to see how many people would actually visit just to try and figure out what I was talking about. 

As I mentioned last week, I have started reading a book called "Multiply," by Francis Chan.  It is a book on discipleship and since I am a fan of Francis Chan and discipleship is heavy on my heart, my wife purchased this book for me for Christmas. 

It is not really a devotional book, but I am using it similar to they way many use a devotional.  I read a section and then try to really understand what he is talking about.

Yesterday, I read about how God is our Lord and what Lord really means.  Sure we call Him Lord, but many, including myself, forget what that really means.  If someone is your Lord, really they have ownership of you.  You are their subject and have the responsibility to do as they wish. 

While in our culture today having anyone above you or over you is seen as a sign of weakness or means you are lacking in power, there are a lot of good things that come from it as well.  Especially, when the Lord is good.

I don't know how many songs I have heard about the Lord being Good. It is a well used line, but I don't know that many of us truly believe it.  We say we believe it in our head, but we often think we know more and want to do our own thing rather than trusting God to really be our Lord.

In the midst of trying to figure out if I am truly letting God be the Lord of my life, or if I continually choose to do my own thing, I had a few instances where I can look back just this week where God has shown me He is a good Lord. 

When I say good, I mean more than just taking care of me and giving me what I want.  I mean good as in he is active in my life and reveals Himself to me when I need it. 

If you have been following my blog long, you know that relationships, small groups, and discipleship are a big deal to me.  I believe the church has lost sight of this and that God wants me to help revitalize in within the community in which I live.  The only problem is, sometimes in waiting I can easily get sidetracked or lose sight of the bigger picture.  I don't want to rush into things and try to tell God I know more.  I want to make sure I am working on His time table. So...I've been waiting.

Until this week...

God has made several things clear to me this week.

He had someone approach me and tell me it was time.  They needed it.

He had someone call me who I wanted to call and discuss it with....and let me know they were on fire and ready for change.

He had someone tell me they were excited about what we had planned.

He had someone suggest opportunities for service.

God has made it clear that it is time.  People need relationships....people need to live in community...people need discipleship....people need to see Him in a new way.

 This all may not sound like much to you, but it was God showing me that He is Lord in my life. He is taking care of me.  He is present.  It is amazing at how He brings certain things into our lives to reveal bits and pieces of Himself as He knows we need it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Just take the name

I was reading yesterday in a new book called "Multiply," by Francis Chan.  He posed an interesting thought that I had never thought about in quite this way.

When the disciples were picked Jesus said, "come, follow me."  These men that He picked were the first "Christians."  They weren't called Christians at first, but were identified with Christ as being his followers, which is what the idea of being a "Christian" really is.

What if, Jesus had only said, "Hey guys, I want to grow a new religion, would you mind just saying you identify with me?"  You don't have to be like me or do anything other than just say, "I'm a Christ follower."

Unfortunately, in our society that is really what it has boiled down too.  People don't really want to give up anything or make any changes in their life, they just want to be labeled as a "Christian," because historically it meant you were a good person.  (I say historically, because in our ever changing culture, being a Christian, isn't always seen as a positive.)

While we don't have to do anything to receive salvation other than believe Christ, out of our love for Him and what He has done we are called to Repent and be different.  We are to set apart for God's purposes.  We are not supposed to go on living the same way we have always lived.  However, we have boiled Christianity down to a "prayer" that we can claim made us different and never have to adjust our lives at all, according to many churches.  We just have to identify with Christ....take His name...say that we are a follower....and we are good to go.

I say, being a follower of Christ means that we are in an ever changing state of our heart being changed.  His disciples took years for their hearts to even begin to look like Christ's.  Even at the end, Christ had to correct them and try to give them yet another glimpse of His heart.  Out of the heart, comes action.  If our heart is not changing and not desiring to be more like Christ's, our actions will reflect that and the opposite is also true.

I have a hard time calling myself a Christian when I don't necessarily want to identify with what it has become.  I would much rather call myself a person who is striving to follow "The Way."

Friday, January 4, 2013

No Why?

I don't know if I would call it a trend or just something that has been taking place for so long that no one has really noticed.  I was listening to Glenn Beck yesterday on the radio and he posed an interesting statement.  The statement was basically that we need to know what our "Why?" is about the things we do.  As I started to think about that more and more, I have come to the conclusion that many of us don't really have a "why" or know "why" we do many of the things we do.   Traditions have been passed down from generation to generation and no one has bothered to ask why.

I know I am guilty of telling my kids, "because I said so," when they ask why.  However, I am also in the habit of trying to explain to them the reason for my decisions.  I want them to know and understand why I do something, not just that I do it a certain way and that they should do it that way as well.

I think the fact that we do things without knowing why or truly understanding why is a major issue with our society today.  Not only that, but it appears to be an on going issue for quite some time.

I was once part of a couple different churches that held fast to many "rules."   These churches held so fast to these rules that I would venture many of them didn't even know the "why" behind them.  Without knowing the "why" they are just rules and really have no meaning other than "because I said so."  No body likes the "because I said so," reason.  It doesn't stir up anything inside of anyone. It does not help them see the heart behind the rule.  It loses all sense of relationship that could be involved.

I know over the past year, I have written many times about relationships and how important they are.  I think that if we really want to have quality relationships we need to start asking ourselves why we do the things we do and examine if we are doing things either wrong or without reason.  I wonder how many things we do that just have no meaning or reason to be done anymore.

I think "why?" is a question we need to begin asking and after asking searching for answers.  I imagine we will be surprised at many of our answers and many of us might be able to change some of the things we do because we will realize there is a better way we have just missed it for doing it the way we have always done it.

I'm not necessarily being specific about any one thing, but I think we have plenty of reasons to look at our spiritual life, our family life, our job life, and our social life to really search for meaning in what we are doing.  I think God has meaning for us and we can get so focused on the doing, that we forget why we are doing it in the first place.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A voice

I'll admit, I really want to blog, but at this point I am not sure what to say.  Many of the topics I have discussed over the last year are topics that have either intrigued me or are a reflection of the current conflict I am in.  By conflict, I don't necessarily mean that I am in conflict with a person, but many are conflicts internally that cause me to examine myself as well as certain scenarios or thoughts others have posed. 

Over the past week or so I had the privilege of being able to stay home for a while and enjoy some time away from work.  It was a lot of fun and I got some stuff done that I wanted to.  In teh midst of that I had the time to read a book I had wanted to read for some time called "Sinner's Creed."  It is a book written by Scott Stapp, the lead singer for Creed.

As I read through his book, I couldn't help but find myself identifying with him in so many ways.  When he spoke of how so many people connected with his music through the lyrics I couldn't help but believe that there is underlying issue among so many of us that just gets stuffed.  A lot of his lyrics have to do with the battle that rages inside of us between what we know God wants for us and our own personal, fleshly desires. 

I have always loved his work and as I read the book, I could understand why even more. 

I don't really know what this year has for me this year.  I imagine more of the same as I know God is never through with changing us.  If you get a chance, check out Scott Stapp's book or listen to some of his music.  If you find that you connect with it, let me know, I would love to chat with you.