What Jesus REALLY Said About Sin

If you’ve ever wondered why your proclamations of the Good News about Jesus Christ are impotent, might I suggest reading this excellent devotional by Oswald Chambers (updated language by James Reimann) about what Scripture reveals as the true nature of sin? 
He states:

Sin is a fundamental relationship–it is not wrong doing, but wrong being–it is deliberate and determined independence from God. The Christian faith basis every thing on the extreme, self-confident nature of sin. Other faiths deal with sins–The Bible alone deals with sin. The first thing Jesus Christ confronted in people was the heredity of sin, and it is because we have ignored this in our presentation of the gospel that the message of the Gospel has lost its sting and its explosive power.

The revealed truth of the Bible is not that Jesus Christ took on Himself our fleshly sins, But that He took on Himself the heredity of sin that no man can even touch. God made His own son “to be sin”that He might make the sinner into a saint. It is revealed throughout the Bible that our Lord took on Himself the sin of the world through identification with us, not through sympathy for us. He deliberately took on His own shoulders, and endured in his own body, the complete, cumulative sin of the human race. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us…” and by so doing He placed salvation for the entire human race solely on the basis of redemption. Jesus Christ reconciled the human race, putting it back to where God designed it to be. And now anyone can experience that reconciliation, being brought into oneness with God, on the basis of what our Lord has done on the cross. 

A man cannot redeem himself–redemption is the work of God, and is absolutely finished and complete. And its application to individual people is a matter of their own individual action or response to it. A distinction must always be made between the revealed truth of redemption and the actual conscious experience of salvation in a person’s life.

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Rest In the LORD

As Christians, we often find ourselves frustrated with life, not sure of what we should be doing &/or not feeling satisfied with the work we’ve done. I believe this is because much of the work and service we are striving after in life is not actually done in the Spirit, as it should be, but is often done by our own human efforts, whether we’re striving to take care of our earthly concerns, or simply trying to serve God. Either way, when we are striving/working out of our flesh, rather than by the Spirit, we will always be left empty in the end, for as Solomon said often in Ecclesiastes, everything under the sun is a chasing after the wind. 

One of the things I’ve always found quite chilling are Jesus’s words in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Though these words have always haunted me, I think I’m beginning to understand them better lately. It seems to me He is talking about those who strived after God from their flesh, performing all these things by their own efforts, out of the flesh, which is why He says at the end of this pericope “I never knew you, away from me, you evildoers!”  

Instead of striving after God out of our own efforts, we who are His servants ought to perform our service not out of fear or for reward, but out of love for Him who set us free! 

Paul says all our work is for naught if we have not love (1 Corinthians 13:1ff), and I believe this love only comes from a life fully surrendered to the will of the Spirit. Instead of striving to serve God by our own efforts, we should first seek to rest in the LORD, and get to know Him before we can be of any service to God’s Kingdom. 

Once we have rested in the LORD (Psalm 37, especially verse 7), and attained an honest and open relationship with God, I believe the Spirit of God will move us and direct us to whatever service He sees fit for us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. 

Paul tells us to be content in whatever station of life we are in (1 Corinthians 7:17ff), for it is in the daily tasks of life that the Spirit moves us first. After we have proven faithful in the little things, even greater tasks will be accomplished through us (Luke 16:10)! 

Though it is often tiresome work when we are serving the LORD, rarely (if ever) is it burdensome. If we are fully and 100% sold out to Christ, living by the Spirit, such that we have nothing we have not surrendered for &/or to Him (Matthew 13:44-46), then all our service becomes a joy, and not something to be burdened by (Matthew 11:28-30). 

We must all remember to rest in the LORD, and first seek to know Him, rather than binding ourselves up by our own strivings. We must always remain in the LORD and rest in Him, letting the Spirit fill us so that all our work for the Kingdom is an outpouring of the Spirit in us. When we are fully surrendered to Christ, all our words and deeds will be Spirit-led and blessed by God the Father, who produces a harvest that is thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what we sow (see Matthew 13)!

We Speak, Because He First Spoke to Us

You’d get more accomplished in a single day,

    if you’d simply take more time to pray!

If you’re a Christian, then stop being so busy with the hustle and bustle of this world, and make time to speak to God. Also, and more importantly, make time for God to speak to you, so that you can speak His message, specially and uniquely crafted through you, His special work, His beautiful masterpiece, to be expressed to a Love(agape love)-starved world. 

If you just slow down and make time for God every day, you will get far more important (Kingdom) work done than we ever could if we spent all day rushing from one task to the next, chasing after whichever demand (no matter how silly or serious) our busy lives deem important at the moment, and God will STILL help you accomplish all you need to do in your roles, responsibilities, and duties. He’s the miracle worker, remember?! 

So stop being too busy to pray, for as Bill Hybels’ book title states, we’re Too Busy Not to Pray!

Colossians 3:1-3 NLT

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life and your real life is hidden with Christ in God and when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

God Provides!

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

As many of you may already know, this semester has been a rough one for Sarah and I financially, even as we grow in our relationship to God and draw closer to Him through Jesus Christ.  We had a loss of income shortly before discovering we would need to pay for this semester out of pocket. We have had a rough go, but God has been faithful and true! 

Last month I made a post proclaiming how God provided for us through an anonymous donation to my student funds. This month, He worked in a way only an omnipotent and omniscient Being could!
So I got paid on Friday, and Sarah and I had calculated out how much I’d be making after taxes, and planned our finances around that. We paid some bills and got essentials accordingly, but when we got my check, it was $75 shorter than it should have been. 

We were devastated and shocked, not knowing what happened or what we would do with rent looming over us. We noticed there was an extra amount of money missing on my paystub under a WGA title. 
After talking to my boss, and him getting ahold of his financial people, they discovered that there were at least three paychecks of mine over this past year that had wrongly had a wage garnishment taken from them, and that the mistake had happened through a clerical error, being applied to the wrong Brent through his financial company. 
So today when I got to work, I had checks waiting for me with the extra funds that were wrongfully held, right when we could use them best to catch up on some bills that were in arrears! 

All glory and praise to God most High! Glory to the God, the ultimate Provider! God has been using our financial situation (which we got ourselves in by our mistakes) to not only teach Sarah and I how to value all He provides, but also as an opportunity to pour out His blessings and to encourage us to continue to trust Him to provide all things, and follow Him even when all else seems dark and hopeless. 

Matthew 6:25-34:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

My Getaway with God

I spent this past weekend having a much needed mini-getaway with God. The following is my reflections on this past weekend and all God’s been teaching me (though I’m sure there’s plenty he showed me that has slipped through the cracks) and I hope it can bless you as it has blessed me!

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Insights into ADHD

After some reflection upon my ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), I have came up with a sort of analogy:

Think about thoughts as water flowing through a faucet.
With a non-ADHD person (here I almost said “normal person” but Normal is only a town in Illinois) you can presumably turn that faucet on and off as necessary, and thus stop the flow of thoughts.

For someone with ADHD, however, there is a leak in the faucet. Regardless of where we like it or not, there is usually a constant flow of thoughts. Sure we still have ways of making the flow increase or decrease, and there are even times when it stops (though the moment you realize it is not there is the moment you destroy it, kind of like with humility). For the most part, however, it is always going. Even when it isn’t there, the simplest observation, the slightest provocation and it can be off to the races with the flow of thoughts.

This is why when we are trying to do to something we don’t like or want to do (whether just at the moment or at all), it is easy to get distracted by that steady stream of thoughts, and in so doing focus our attention on something, someone or somewhere we would rather do, be, or simply focus on.

We don’t always mean to either. I know there have been plenty of times when my wife Sarah was speaking to me and something she said sparked a stream of thoughts that caused me to stop listening to her and focus instead on that rabbit trail my thoughts traveled down. Sometimes I catch this quickly and simply refocus to what she is saying. Then it is simply a matter of figuring out if I can puzzle together the missing pieces of what she said, or if I have to ask questions to fill in the gaps. Other times I am not so lucky and get distracted for too long to know what else she said, and simply have to be humble enough to admit that I got distracted by a thought.

In any case, For those of you who know or care about someone ADHD, I ask that you remember that there is a constant background flow to our thoughts, and humbly beg your patience when dealing with us. This near constant flow also causes us to be more apt at interrupting than others. The flow just want to be voiced and wants to interject every “excellent” insight on all aspects of existence it excessively exegetes. This last sentence by the way is an example of my flow in action. One of the little things I enjoy in life is alliteration, and so a constant background task my brain is unconsciously doing is looking for ways to express myself through alliteration (another example of how that flow plays out in my life is all the excessive asides I tend to take in both my writing as well as speaking with full-on sentences in parentheticals, such as this one, which are generally unnecessary yet in many cases informative afterthoughts I still want to express).

One thing about ADHD that will be helpful to understand is that the name is somewhat of a misnomer. It is not that I just have this constant deficiency of attention in everything, but that our attention is far more easily harnessed on things we enjoy or desire. When we are focused on something we really like or want to do, whether that is writing an article about how your own insane brain works, or building the world’s most powerful biodiesel boat (hey, I’m sure someone out there is doing it), we can channel our stream of thoughts to focus on whatever our object or objective is, and we can unleash that flow in a way that is hard to describe to non-ADHD individuals outside of calling it a hyper-focus. This hyper-focus can be pure ecstasy, and is sometimes overpowering. It is easy to be overwhelmed with excitement, especially when we want to share all our amazing insights with others (which again makes us more apt to interrupt). Learning to live with it, let alone control it, can be a distressing and daunting daily drain. We must constantly work on harnessing it for good purposes, missions, and goals, and at the same time stave off negative side-effects that threaten to hinder or wholly harm our positive efforts. We ask those of you who live and/or interact with us to have patience with us and try to be understanding. It is almost as difficult for us to be this way as it is for you to deal with it. Please bear with us through both the blessings and the curse of our disorder, because one of the negative factors about having ADHD we must deal with is that our disorder is “invisible” to most people. If someone has a physical disorder, it is generally visible to others, and people recognize this person has certain limitations on what they are capable of. Many mental disorders are “visible” in a similar way, in that after interacting with them it is obvious that they have a mental disorder which limits certain things. Most people affected by ADHD, however, appear “normal” (for lack of a better yet succinct term), or maybe slightly eccentric, but our disorder is not obvious to others who observe us. We appear to be fully functioning, yet most of us struggle with things like disorganization, procrastination, tardiness, absentmindedness, thought or verbal dyslexia, word-vomiting, “laziness” (in that we can have a hard time doing or getting into mundane tasks), and a whole host of other symptoms and problems people think we can/need to just “get over” but can’t (at least not without great effort and difficulty). These are only a few thoughts on the topic, but this is something I wanted to share with others, to hopefully help you or someone you know better understand what it is like having a mental disorder that is oft times misunderstood and/or outright dismissed. One of my pet peeves is when I hear someone say “oh, I’m just AD(H)D today” or “that kid is so hyper he/she must have ADD” or some similar statement. These statements are simply ignorant and insensitive to those of us who have this disorder, and they are the result of a lack of understanding of what it truly means to have ADHD. I don’t profess to be an expert of the topic, and don’t fully understand it myself, but with 29 years of experience having it, I hope I have given you some sort of insight that may help you better understand those with ADHD. Having ADHD can be a great blessing if we can harness the positive aspects while at the same time reigning in the negative aspects.

Caveat: I want to make clear that I am not a psychiatrist or physician, and as such have no true insights into what bits of what I’ve said truly stem from my ADHD, and what just stems from the way I’m wired. As such, please take what I’ve said with a grain of salt. I am speaking here in the third person for those with ADHD with only a lay person’s insights based on what I’ve experienced and reflected on in myself, and from my experience with others who have ADHD. If you or a loved one you know had ADHD, and something here doesn’t resonate with you it is probably just something in the way I’m wired , though it is possible that our ADHD is just symptomatically expressed differently.

Please comment below and share with others your own insights into this topic, either as a first hand ADHDer, or as one who interacts with an ADHDer.

Painting a picture of Creation

I really enjoyed this video. What Neil deGrasse Tyson calls the most astounding fact about the universe, however, is just one of the many, many, many, reasons to give glory, honor, and praise to God most High.

It was God who set this universe into motion with a plan of such precision and care, that it unfolded into the gloriously diverse mosaic that is the astounding amount of galaxies (not to mention the number of stars and planets within each of those galaxies) in the universe, so that one day, billions of years after the creation event we call the Big Bang, life would be possible on a tiny blue planet in a Podunk part of a smaller galaxy in this vastly, unimaginably ginormous universe, that is nothing compared to the magnitude of the One True God who created it. (here’s a neat chart you should click if you want to compare the sizes of some known galaxies).

GChart1

God knew from the start what He was doing, and before He set a single atom into motion, He had already planned out how He would fine-tune this universe in such a way that life would be possible, and after billions of years, when the time was right, and the planet ready, God set that life into motion, to watch it grow and evolve and flourish for billions more years. Eventually, when the time was just right, God created a man (Adam) in His own image, forming him from the dust of the ground. God then took Adam (whose name means “dust” in Hebrew), and introduced him to all of the vast array of flora and fauna that inhabit this planet, letting Adam name them. After this, God creates Eve from the rib of Adam, and woman was formed. God then calls them to be fruitful and multiply, so that Man, made specially in the Imago Dei, could have dominion over the earth, and this is exactly what they do. That is, until they screw it up, disobey God, and are condemned to death. They are now no longer given access to the Tree of Life, and thus no longer enjoy the gift of immortality, and must inevitably return to the dust from which they came. Fear not my reader, for this is not the end of the story!

God in His infinite wisdom, and in the fullness of time, sent Jesus to take on human flesh, being both fully God and fully man, to show us the Way, the truth, and to give us Life. Christ is to be our atoning sacrifice, and willingly gives His infinite, perfect life, to be an atonement for all our finite, imperfect ones, thus granting us the opportunity to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior, and share in his eternal life. In this way, Christ conquered sin and death, becoming the second Adam who fulfilled the penalty demanded by the actions of the first.

God was in control then, and He is in control now. There is no reason to think a God such as described in the Bible needs to “tinker” with everything, for such a God is too small. No, God, in His infinite wisdom, set this universe into motion with a plan and a purpose, and He infused it with beauty, morality, meaning, and significance, all to His glory. Part of that beauty is well expressed not only in the inter-connectivity of everything in the universe, as Tyson points out in the beginning of the video, but also in the beauty, the precision, the fine-tuning, and the sensibility (that is, the universe is rational and makes sense) found in the universe. He is to be praised for creating such a wonderful world for us, and for leaving these signposts all over the place that point to Him. The evidence that points to a Creator and Designer of the universe are astoundingly apparent to those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear. Psalm 14:1-4 says:

1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

4 Do all these evildoers know nothing?

All our efforts, great and small, will ultimately be for naught if we ignore the Creator and instead worship the created, whatever form that may take. Whether it is science, or sports, or power, or significance, or spouses, or our studies, even religion and our ideas about God, absolutely everything is utterly meaningless without a relationship with the One who imbues meaning, purpose, beauty and significance upon creation. God cries out to us through all these wonderful things in creation. All of Creation calls us to the One who made them all, and who knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb.
So give praise and Glory to God most High, who gave the breath of life to a mound of dust, and in so doing created us, that we may have the chance to know Him in this life, and the chance to not only receive the gift of eternal life, but to offer it to others, if only we will follow Him.

So look upon this video and gander at the galaxies on the chart, and be awed by the Might, Power, and Majesty of a God who cared enough about you and I that He sent His son in Human flesh, to show us to the Way, the Truth, and to give us Life. May we follow in the footsteps of Christ, and die to self so that others may have life eternal with the One True King of all Creation. Bow down in fear of such a wonderful and Mighty God, and lift hands of praise and Glory and Honor to Him who Conquered Sin and death. Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. Amen, and Amen!