Why We Need to Quit Trying to Save the World

why-we-need-to-quit-trying-to-save-the-world

Can we stop trying to change the world?

 

Listen close, for just a second.

 

I say: The world doesn’t need fixing, because it’s already been done.

 

I don’t mean the world’s perfect. I don’t mean the world’s not broken – just look around, steady your eyes on a little slice of the pain and you’ll be convinced in an instant that something’s sorely wrong, sucked nearly dry of hope.

 

But there is something greater than the brokenness that we see – something higher, bigger, more powerful than the messes we create for ourselves.

Continue reading “Why We Need to Quit Trying to Save the World”

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When We Can’t Explain the World’s Pain

when-we-cant-explain-the-worlds-pain

Wordless.

 

Sometimes that’s what life makes us.

 

When we see the tragedies in the world, our own selves falling apart, the world splitting with injustice, and evil, and suffering – we don’t know what to say.

 

In our heads, we know that God is all good, all powerful, and full of compassion and love.

 

Yet when life makes us ache, brings us to our breaking point, and the world shouts, “How could you believe in a God that allows you to suffer?” we’re often silent.

Continue reading “When We Can’t Explain the World’s Pain”

Christians, Other People Are Not the Real Enemy.

Christians, Other People Are Not the Real Enemy.

 

Christians, other people are not the real enemy.

 

In the crazy world we live in, its so easy to think that everyone hates us, everyone opposes us, and we’re the only ones that are “right.”

 

It’s easy to stand back and judge the world, those people who we refer to as our “enemies.”

And yeah, we probably have good reason to.

 

The people that want to take away our freedoms – freedoms to speak and think as we please – those people, well, they’re not our favorite.

 

But those very same people that we’re shouting “You’re the enemy!” at, we’re simultaneously judging. And that’s not okay.

Continue reading “Christians, Other People Are Not the Real Enemy.”

How Simple is The Gospel?

How Simple is The Gospel?.jpg

 

The older I get, the more I realize how complicated the world is. In areas of worldviews, politics, education, and religion, there is such a diverse spectrum.

 

A few nights ago, while watching the news, I was informed of a religion that holds the view that spaghetti created the universe and therefore spaghetti is the center. A lady’s driver’s license picture was taken with a strainer on her head, because apparently, if she was prohibited from doing so, it would be considered discrimination. All due respect to these people, but that’s slightly crazy.

 

Anyway, that’s not really my point here. My point is that the world is complicated. Things are diverse. And we tend to listen to the craziness at times.

 

What I’m trying to do here is to direct our attention to all the different sects of Christianity, and those that complicate the Gospel.

 

A lot of people claim that all “true Christians” look alike – we all can perform miracles, be excellent leaders, be really good people, and so on. Therefore, it is concluded that if you can’t or don’t do any of these things, you’re not really a Christian.

 

While I do believe that some can do these things and show themselves to be good people, salvation can’t come from these things. Rather, these things are examples of what can pour out of a Christian’s life.

 

This is where simplicity comes in.

 

The Gospel is beautiful because it isn’t dependent on us. Because we are sinful, we do not deserve heaven or any kind of forgiveness. Nevertheless, salvation is a free gift to all who would accept it.

 

I heard a story a few weeks ago that really made me think. Oftentimes, skeptics ask the question, “If God truly is good, why does He allow bad things to happen to good people?” But the speaker came back with the question, “If we truly are sinful, why does God allow good things to happen to [us] bad people?”

 

Implied in this story is what we all know deep inside – we aren’t perfect. As much as we can strive to be good people, we can never measure up to God’s standard of perfection. (Romans 3:23.) God knows this, and that is why He made the Gospel so simple.

 

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

 

Eternal life is life to the full now and life for eternity in heaven. But how do we get it? Believing in Jesus.

 

John 14:6

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

 

By believing, we accept that our goodness can never measure up to God’s standard, but that Jesus’ can and did. That He is the only way to Heaven, the only atonement for our sins, and by accepting Him and Him alone will we find eternal life.

 

Romans 10:9-10

“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

 

Salvation is so easy. We believe and we confess to that belief. Even though we do not deserve it whatsoever, it is freely given to us.

 

Acts 4:12

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

 

I know that people claim that Christianity is intolerant because we say that Jesus is the ONLY way to God. I’m not intolerant of others at all. In fact, I respect all people because they were all made and are loved by God. But I can not go against what I believe to say that there is more than one way to be saved, for that would be contradicting what I believe. And if you’re tolerant of what I believe, why are you intolerant to my so-called intolerance? Wouldn’t that be discriminating against me?

 

I know, it sounds ridiculous if I argue it that way. Simply put, though, there is no other way to Heaven but by Jesus. If you want to argue…don’t argue with me, but the One who wants to save your soul.

 

Or maybe…just accept it.

 

I’m not trying to step on toes here. I know that Christianity can seem complicated, just like so much of the world is. What I’m here to say is that it’s not that complicated. God loves everyone and wants to save every one of us; if He didn’t, why would Jesus have come?

 

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31, paraphrased).

 

*aj

I’m Just Contemplating The World, Among Other Things.

I’m Just Contemplating The World, Among Other Things.

I don’t know what you’d call me. A thinker, perhaps. I think about things on a really big scale sometimes and people look at me like I’m weird when I make analytical and philosophical comments.

Nothing new there.

Anyway…I’m that weird friend that likes to talk about why things are the way they are. The meaning of life, the measure of success…all that jazz.

But I rarely stop there.

When I think, my life gets put into perspective.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about religion.

Usually, “religious” people have a normal life. School. Work. Play. Family. And on top of that, church and spiritual things once a week or so.

But that bothers me. If our lives are so-called “religious,” why isn’t it integrated into our lives?

That’s a question that has been weighing on me lately, as you probably read in my post about Church Camp Christians.

Honestly, though, my thoughts have been going even deeper than that.

These philosophical contemplations hit me at random times.

I few weeks ago, I was sitting around in my own little head (like I do most days), and thinking.

Why is Jesus the only way?

 

Why do I really live the way I do?

 

Why does God deserve my worship?

 

Could I just pick some other religion if I wanted to?

 

Why?

 

And I mean, I do know the answers to those questions.

I realize that I don’t have too much of a choice. This is God’s universe. He created it. He has existed forever and ever.

Now, when I say that I don’t have much of a choice, please don’t take it the wrong way.

It’s just like this.

I either choose to love God and be saved by Him, or I don’t.

I choose His way, or I choose mine.

At first, this might seem unfair. Who put God in charge?

Well, that’s the thing. This is HIS universe. He didn’t have to create us, but He did anyway. He knew we’d rebel against Him, but He created us and loved us anyway. He knew that we would rebel and therefore break our relationship with Him, but He still sent Jesus for us. He still forgives our sin because of His grace. And He deserves our worship because He is God. It’s not really explainable.

God has always existed, and always will exist. Earth is just a smudge in all of eternity.

So, why is Jesus the only way? Well, if there was another way to God, one that was easier, then why would Jesus have come in the first place?

Simple. He wouldn’t’ve. There’s no point in an unnecessary sacrifice.

When I look at the world, my thoughts are provoked.

When I see people walking in the streets. When I see people in stores. When I see people writing books or making movies.

What are they living for?

 

Do they realize that we are made for more than just going through boring old life?

 

Do they realize that God is at the center of the universe? That He is in control? That He wants to have a personal relationship with them, no matter how far gone they are?

 

Do they realize that they’ll never be satisfied until they get to know God for who He is?

 

Just a simple shift in perspective makes me realize that it’s not about me.

It’s not about how good I am, but about how good God is. He loved me, and gave Himself for me.

I don’t live out of guilt, obligation, or drudgery.

I live because I don’t deserve grace. I don’t deserve love. I don’t deserve hope.

And yet, I have been given it. It’s beautiful, really. Inspiring.

If you consider Christianity a religion, then I want my religion to bleed into my everyday life.

No, actually, I want it to take over.

I want my relationship with Jesus to be the thing that I live for. The thing that makes my heart beat. The thing that inspires me.

And you know what?

It sure does.

*aj

I’ve Been Lied To.

I've Been Lied To.

I must say, life is quite confusing.

Everything in this world always contradicts itself.

For example, magazines tell us “Be yourself! You are wonderful just the way you are!” and then on the next page, “Nobody will love you if you don’t show at least 95% of your skin at all times. Be brash. Be bold. Throw away your moral compass.”

Wait. What?

I’m supposed to conform to this impossible image of a photoshopped person, and I’m also told to just be myself; both views are supported by most everyone.

Every day we hear:

“Nobody’s perfect. Embrace your imperfections.”

“If you don’t use this product or wear this item, nobody will like you.”

“Normal is boring. Be wild. Be free. Everything is a choice.”

AND HONESTLY, SOMETIMES I FEEL SO DISORIENTED BY IT ALL.

What’s right? What’s wrong? Am I just really weird? What if they’re right, and my life is a lie?

Ah, reader, don’t fret. Although the ways of the world are contradictory and insane, there is absolute truth that will stand forever.

For example, the world tells us that we are created by chance; accidents; mistakes. But do you want to know what God tells us?

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” – Psalm 139:14

The culture tells us that we are our own, and that what we do with our bodies doesn’t matter.

However, the Bible disagrees.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

The world says it’s all on us. We have no idea what’s coming. For all we know, the zombie apocalypse could come, World War IV is going to start right after that (because WWIII has probably already come and gone), and the sun is going to blow up one day and smash us to smithereens. And that’s why we buy lots of canned goods…????

Okay, as absurd as that sounds, when our lives aren’t based on truth, we won’t know what to think. But guess what. We are never alone, and God has promised us this:

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” – Matthew 6:31-32

 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

Another lie? How about this one.

“Put yourself first. You deserve it.”

Umm. ExCUSE me?

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:4

And I can’t resist this one.

“Love is a feeling. That’s all.”

No, no, no. This is real love!

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” – 1 John 4:10

And let me finish off with one last mistruth that destroys our culture.

What is it? That appearances are everything. All that matter. But let me assure you that that is not the case.

God looks at the heart. It doesn’t matter what anyone but He thinks.

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30

It’s absolutely true that the world lies to us. And it can really mess us up.

If we don’t believe the truth of who we are – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) – we won’t be able to move forward. We’ll be trapped.

But we needn’t be anymore.

*aj

Freedom in Christ!

Keyboard, Mouse, iPhone

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what freedom in Christ really means.

I’ve heard some say that we can do whatever we want because of it, and I’ve heard others say that we have no authority to live in light of our freedom, we still have to follow the Bible rule-for-rule. I agree with both, and I agree with neither.

Okay, so I’m a nerd and I love the dictionary, so I looked up “freedom” in the (online) dictionary. And usually, I don’t like every definition of a word, but I liked all of these. So here is “freedom” defined.

  1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint
  2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
  3. the power to determine action without restraint.
  4. political or national independence.
  5. personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery
  6. exemption from the presence of anything specified (usually followed by from):
  7. the absence of or release from ties, obligations, etc.

So, this implies:

We are at liberty and are not in confinement to the law.

We are exempt from external control of sin and the law over us.

We have the power to determine how we want to live.

We are free, according to the ruling of God.

We are personally free, and we are not in slavery to the law which brings sin, and sin which brings death.

We are free from the obligation to live under the law.

We are free from ties to sin.

Galatians 5:1; 13-14 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. […] For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 

We have been set free, guys! Let’s see, what were we slaves to? Oh yeah, being confined by the law, being entwined in sin, and being condemned to death. BUT WE ARE FREE. Doesn’t sound too shabby, does it?

Why do we have freedom? Because of grace.

Our sin is not counted against us.

Should we keep on sinning, though? I mean, it’s not like we’re punished for it or anything. Romans 6:1-2 says “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

 

I got a new computer about six weeks ago, and it is beautiful. It is fast, it is smart, it is clean and neat, it is light, and I believe that it makes my life oh-so-much better. I always enjoy working on my new computer.

I do have another computer that I used before, though. At first, it worked and I liked it, but after a few years, it got old. Now, it is old, slow, clunky and heavy, ugly, and unpleasant to work with. It makes me cringe every time I use it. My new computer is at least three times faster, and I can always count on it.

When I got it, I was ecstatic. I was so glad to be rid of what caused me so much trouble! But I had to learn how to work it and not let my old PC habits kick in. (The switch from a PC to a Mac is hard! But totally worth it to me.) After I learned how to use it, it came completely naturally to me and I would NEVER want to go back! I have a new computer now; it would just make my life worse to go back to use my old and broken one. What would be the sense in that???

I suppose the same thing happens in our lives too. When we do not know any better, we completely enjoy sin. After all, it is “fun”. If it wasn’t fun, why would we do it? So we continue on in sin, not knowing any better, and sort of enjoying ourselves in the process. But then we become Christians, and become new in Christ. We aren’t refurbished, we are NEW, and we still have the shrink-wrapping and tag. So, my question is, why do we want to keep feeding into the old nature (using the old, broken, clunky computer) when we can thrive by living for Christ (using the new, working, beautiful, and light computer)?

When we became Christians, we put away our sin nature. Because, perhaps we enjoyed using the broken computer for a while before we realized it was broken, but now that we have the new computer, why would we possibly want to use the old computer? It may take a while and work to get used to it, but still. Why would we want to go back?

Now that we have forgiveness and life and freedom in Christ, we can live our new lives without regret. We can live our new lives to the full, rejoicing in our salvation!

Yeah, we have freedom! But what would be the purpose of using our freedom – to use whichever computer we want – to go back to the old and broken system? Honestly, which one is better?

You know.

Living in sin is not at all fulfilling. Living in Christ is both currently and eternally fulfilling. Sin does not help us to grow or enjoy our salvation.

One day of growing in and knowing Christ is better than an entire life of fleeting-pleasure sin, my friends. Sin does not, will not, and cannot satisfy. However, a relationship with God through Christ can – and does.

Technically, we could live however we want. We *could* live in sin, because it is not counted against us. We *could* live for ourselves in never-satisfying worldly pleasure. We *could*. But we shouldn’t. Not just because “the Bible tells me so” – although it does – but because, we all know firsthand, that the world can not satisfy. We’ve all experienced it! You may try to convince yourself that you’re happy – but you can not truly find your satisfaction until your heart is set in the unfailing love of Christ. Trust me, I know. I’ve been there.

And it may seem counterintuitive to do so – but it’s worth every bit of life you put into living for Christ. Seriously. This isn’t our duty, it’s our joy.

Let’s use our freedom to live a worthwhile life. Are y’all with me?

*aj

Why Do I Always Fall For The World’s Lies?

Sweet Mercedes

Psalm 37:4

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Let me explain what I used to think this verse meant.

If I just read my Bible, pray, go to church, obey God, and love and serve Him, then He’ll give me what I want.

 

I don’t know if I fully understood that knowing God and loving Him was SERIOUSLY satisfying.

We’re all living in the world. (If you’re living in space right now, then hello! And yes, I’m talking to you too.) Every day, we hear messages from the world coming at us about what we “need”. “You need more money. You need more clothes. You need more stuff. You need to be dating. You need to be more beautiful/handsome. You need to be a perfect student. You need _____.” I think we all can fall for these things.

I mean, come on! Why else would we fall for the TV commercials that “promise” to do something for us?

One commercial that really bugs me is the mascara commercial that shows the woman with creepily long eyelashes and promises to give you longer and thicker eyelashes if you use their mascara. However, in the disclaimer, it says, “false eyelashes used in demonstration.” No joke.

This company has an interesting  (if not deceptive) technique.

  1. They obviously want people to buy their product, so they make it seem like all women need long and thick eyelashes, or they won’t be beautiful or happy.
  2. They use this “fact” to their advantage by offering a product that supposedly can fix this problem.
  3. They make it seem like the people that use their product are very beautiful and therefore happy.
  4. The product sells because the majority of the women that see the commercial think that by using this mascara, they will be beautiful. And if you’re beautiful, that must mean that you’re happy, right?

Well, NO. The only satisfaction that you and I will ever get is the perfect satisfaction that comes from a relationship with God.

So why do I always fall for the world’s lies?

Why do I always think that God will give me “what I want” by my forcible compliance?

I’ve figured something out.

Delighting myself in the Lord comes before knowing what the desires of my heart truly are. I can’t just say, “God, I want ______. So from now until 9:30 P.M. on Friday night, I will delight in you, and after that, I know you’ll be faithful to gimme the [pointless and little] thing I want.”

No way.

It must go the other way around.

By delighting ourselves in the Lord, we find out what the desires of our hearts really are. For example, a desire of my heart is to get to know God better – but this is only because I have found my true satisfaction (by delighting) in Him. And guess what? I get to know Him more and more every day. And this makes me insanely joyful.

(I also talk about happiness vs. joy in my fist post, here.)

The desires of my heart have changed because I have found that He is truly what I need (and what I really want!).

Is that crazy? Well, maybe it sounds that way.

Perhaps the question we should be asking is, “Which do we want? Temporary earthly things that won’t satisfy for long? Or things – like

a thriving and growing relationship with the Author of your soul – that will satisfy forever?

I know what the desires of my heart are because I know the One who rescued my soul.

I know where True Love comes from.

I know who I really am.

Do you know?