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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Repeat the Sounding Joy!

So, it's December 26th. Currently, I find myself sipping some coffee from our new coffee maker, while watching TV, flipping between Bar Rescue and Eurtotrip. I feel awash with contentment right now. This past week has been fantastic! I started a new job, and its the week of Christmas. When you couple that with a week of getting together with family and friends, that's a pretty good recipe for a happy James. 2015's conclusion is looking a lot better than it's commencement.

2015 has been a whirlwind for my family and I. A few days into the new year I lost my job. Then I spent the next few months jobless and worried. I must give props to my beautiful, caring, and supportive wife. She was so gracious through that season of our life. Even she felt the effects of 2015. She has had to deal with health issues for the majority of the year. While all of this is going on, we are in the process of transitioning from one ministry to another. God was leading us to leave the ministry we were a part of for 5+ years, to start a completely new ministry. It was a exciting time but it was also terrifying, in some aspects.

I say these things because there can be a build-up around Christmas-time. We hope maybe, just maybe, all of my problems, worries, and fears will be taken care of during this magical time of year. That is why this day, December 26th, can be the litmus test for all of our ails. So, where are you at today? I mean that more metaphorical than literal. Did Christmas bring what you hoped for? Here's what I was able to take away from this Christmas: I am blessed!

"Blessed," is not a word I like to throw around (it's a weird quark of mine). In my opinion, when used loosely, being blessed is cheapened. Because with all of the problems you, or I, may have, WE ARE BLESSED. If I never receive a present, I have the greatest gift. REPEAT THE SOUNDING JOY! God loved us enough to send His son, a manifest representation of Himself. I in no way want to sound arrogant. I realize that some awesome things have happened to me and my family. However, even if you take away the gifts, I am still blessed beyond measure. That is something that I have to be reminded of. This is the time where some of the greatest worship experiences can happen. No music, no lighting, no sound system, no worship leaders. Just me standing around contemplating that I am so very small and God is so very big.

No matter where you find yourself today, know that you are loved and you are worth fighting for. God proved that one night, long ago, at a stable in Bethlehem.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Christians Hate The Environment

"One Conservative Evangelical publication, World magazine, hypes the "We Get It" campaign, which seeks to discredit the threat of global warming. It also claims the threat of climate change is "alarmism" and fears that efforts to clamp down on emissions will hurt the poor (read: corporations). In reality, climate change will have its greatest effect on people living on less than a dollar a day who can notadapt to higher temperatures. Conservative Evangelicals are not concerned with dwindling biodiversity, the destruction of ecosystem, rampant pollution, global warming and the numerous other environmental challenges we face. Rather they, with the business community, are concerned with the bottom line. The future is irrelevant (unless we're talking about government debt). Thus, the Biblical command to protect the environment is widely eschewed." ***

With articles such as this, who would disagree with my title? In part, I don't. My views on environmental issues have changed drastically over the last few years (It's amazing what happens when you do a little research). In my opinion, there are a lot of social/environmental issues that tend to be over-politicized, by that's my inner cynic coming out. There are, however, great organizations & programs that do great work to better our civilization. My problem lies with those who, as I said before, over-politicize there causes. I understand that politics have there place & play there part in these arenas, but to what extent?

So what do we do when similar (or polar opposite) ideals get juxtaposed?

Obviously, different people will see things, well, differently. There are so many factors that come in to play when we all come to the table to try and solve the issues of our day. While I could go on about how we should discourse, I want to this post to serve the purpose of proving or disproving the statement made in the title. So, Christians, "listen," up.

If you care nothing about the environment, social issues, or your fellow man, then I have one question for you: Are you REALLY a Christian? I would tend to argue, probably not. Am I saying to give up driving, go vegan, and live in mud hut? No...well...maybe! At this point you have tuned-out because you're mad that I said you're not a Christian. I didn't say that, so read it again.

As Christians, we have the great hope in the return of Jesus! However, wishing He would return when things don't go our way is completely MISSING THE POINT!!! Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that homosexual marriage is legal in all 50 states. By now, you know that social media, metaphorically, blew up! "Jesus come soon," was a common comment from 'Christians.'
No! The implication, or at least my inference, read, "Jesus, this is getting rough & the world's not listening to us. Come back so I don't have to do any more work."

What happened to, "...take heart, I have overcome the world?" Why are we so eager to leave the mess for everyone who isn't a Christian? Why do we not take into consideration the heart of God when Peter tells us God the Father is, "patient," and wishes that, "all should reach repentance." While we don't have a timeline of when Jesus will return, I do know there is a profusion of work to be done.

It's not time to sit on the sidelines, not caring about what is going on around you. Hot or cold, sheep or goat. Which are you?


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Can't sleep...

Initially when I started writing this entry, it was 5:00 am after a night of no sleep. 

I am Jack's tired eyes. You would think that I'm getting an early start to my day. Wrong! Today (Tuesday) is just an extension of yesterday. I can't say my lack of sleep has been entirely unproductive. I was able to check-off some movies in my Netflix queue. I don't have anything, in particular, keeping me up. As of now, I lack for nothing. I probably should be lacking, but I have to give credit to God Almighty. That's not a "touchdown-catch" nod to the man upstairs, I seriously don't know how things are happening in the way they're happening, right now. All of the basic principles that I have been taught to quantify the things in life simply don't work.

I wonder if the apostle Paul felt the same way as he was, "on the road." See, he faced a completely different set of circumstances. Hardships, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, lack of proper clothing, & a lack of shelter. These are all things Paul described in 2 Corinthians 11:27. I wonder if he ever had the, "why me," conversation with God. Here I am giving credit to God in the midst of for things I shouldn't have, while Paul (in my opinion) did without things he deserved. I mean, he uprooted his entire life, his status, only to go without basic necessities! Why is that fair?

At this point, you may expect a canned answer of, "It's a side effect of the fall," right? Nope. I hate that Paul, or anyone for that matter, did/do without basic human needs. However, Jesus on multiple occasions calls people from their comfort. In John 10, we see a wealthy ruler anguish when Jesus tells him to sells all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. The ESV version of the Bible says he, "went away sorrowful." My imagination tends to wander when I hear something like that. Did he walk away, head down, kicking the dust? Some people scoff at this young man. "How dare he not give it all up for the mission of Jesus Christ!" So my question to you is, would you? If you are so headstrong, then align the context of his situation with yours.

House...sell it
Car...sell it
Job...quit it
Bank account...close it
401(k) it out
Family...leave them
Any other worldly possession...purge yourself of them

Whatever that accumulates to, give that to the poor! Then Jesus, at one point, told his disciples to take nothing with them (Luke 9). If we put that all together, you start your mission with Jesus with nothing! Isn't that how most of us come to a relationship with Jesus? For me, it was realizing that I all I indulged in didn't satisfy. Some of you may be a little cynical to how we/I came to a relationship with Jesus. The sad fact is, Jesus isn't enough for some of us. Just like the young ruler, we can have a realization that we like our life the way it is. Without Jesus. Without Salvation.

I wish I could say that I have given my all in my relationship with Christ. Sadly, it's been one-sided on several occasions. A loving savior doesn't deserve that sort of treatment. I do thank God for the ocean-full of grace He has given me! Do I want to use grace as a cop-out? No. But I am so thankful for it. It's not because I deserve it, because I don't. I am thankful for all things that I have. Even in want, I want to still be thankful. Because above all things, I know I need Jesus.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Practicality of Christendom

Hello & Welcome!

I hope you're doing well today. I would like to briefly touch on a very necessary (and practical) use of our Christian walk. Whether you're new to the faith, been devout of most of your life, or even if you choose not to profess any faith in Jesus Christ, I encourage you to read this post through. I hope you will find it helpful. 

I would like to start today in the book of James (go figure, right!). If you know me well, then you know that this is my favorite book of the Bible. You would think that I favor it because of the namesake, but that's not quite true. I love this book because it is the most practical. While we know James is the name of the author, it is disputed as to which James it is. Authorship is commonly attributed to the James, the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19). For the sake of time, we will assume this to be true. Regardless of who wrote the letter, it's few words speak a full meal worth of putting you faith into practice. 

We will focus on one passage, in particular, today. 

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
                                                                                   -James 1:22 NIV (bold and italics are mine)

There is a common saying that I have heard since becoming a Christian, "Fat, Baby Christians." While some of you may consider it to be off-color, I would stand behind it's intent. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul is addressing the church of Corinth. While they were new to the faith, Paul says he gave them, "milk." We know that he is referring to his delivery and teaching method in this passage. You would not give AP, College-Level Calculus homework to a kindergartner. We need to learn that 2 + 2 = 4 before we learn the, "Limits To Infinity." Where the, "fat baby," saying comes into play is when you're a 25 year-old student who is still learning 2 + 2 = 4. You learned this 20+ years ago. It is time to move on!!! It would be appalling to see suckling grown man, so it is with Christians who are 25+ years into their relationship and still have to be bottle-fed.
(FYI...I wanted to add a photo & I Googled pics of man babies. I DO NOT recommend it.)

There is a time for "childish" things. They have there place and serve their purpose. Eventually those childish things need to be put away. Like Paul said (1 Corinthians 13), and I am paraphrasing, I don't want to reason as a child while I am a man. I want to put those childish things away as I mature and grow. So, I must encourage you (and me), to use sound biblical teaching as a chance to, "grow up," in our faith. If we come in Sunday looking to be fed spiritually, then let us come in starving because we have spent ourselves practicing our faith the previous week.

Let us DO as the Word says!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Content of Our Character Pt. 2

Yeah, Yeah I know I'm a little late at getting this posted. I don't have an excuse. So...yeah.....

I left off last time talking about a statement made by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and how weighty that can be. So, please check that post out it you haven't already!

Before I really dive in, I want to remind everyone that I do not stand on a moral high ground here. I do not consider myself better than ANYONE. In fact, quite the opposite. I am deeply flawed, and it's only by the grace of Jesus that I write this today!

Ok, let's go!

To put yourself in a position to where you are know by the content of your character may seem fine at first thought. But, what about if you have to lay-out everything you've EVER done? No matter how big or how small. You put it all on the table, and then by those actions is how you are known. How would that make you feel? I have done things in my life that I am not proud of, and would shutter to be known by those actions/failures to act. Would you shutter? It would be hard not to. You may decry that this wouldn't be fair, and I may be inclined to agree with you. However, in keeping with being known by the content of our character, it seems that this is the ONLY fair thing. Why would we consider it unfair? Maybe you have done things that you want to no longer define you. Recently, I have learned that JNCO jeans are making a comeback. I never owned a pair a JNCO jeans because I thought they were ridiculous, even at age 12. But there are some (my wife included) who are excited that they are coming back. As adults now, even those who wore them, agree that 50" pants legs are just too much. I mean, c'mon! 50" pant legs!! That would fit around the waist of a fairly large man!!! Nostalgia man! It has a strong hold on us, me included. How often do we look back on what was, and even though we may hate it, we have a somewhat fond memory? I would argue that we look back fondly because those thing are not what defines me/you. You may have wore some ridiculous jeans back in middle school, and while you can remember them well, that's not what defines you as a 30 year-old adult.

Like JNCO's, there are things that happened in the past that were done for that time. I'm sure AquaNet's stock plummeted with the opening notes of, "Smells Like Teen Spirit." So, how do we reconcile what was done in the past and how it defines us now? Paul, empowered by the Holy Spirit, had something really similar to say to the church of Ephesus. (Ephesians 5:8a)

                           "For you were once darkness..."

While this was written to the church of Ephesus, it still has a parallel and is relevant in our lives today. To give some context, the subject matter starts back in Ephesians 4:17 (I'm not going to post the entire segment. If you don't own a Bible, is a great website to check out).
I feel I would be remiss if I did not point out something it this passage. This is passage does not say that we where, "in darkness." It states that we, "were once darkness, talking about a time where we did not know Christ. If you take this passage back the original Greek, you get the word, "skotos." When you put that next to the various adjectives for this word, you get things like:
Not to beat a dead horse, but DARKNESS! The absence of light. In philosophical terms, if white (light) is every color, then black (darkness) is void of color.   

There is nothing satisfying about darkness. It is a race we run to wit there is no end. An insatiable hunger that we constantly feed with anything we think will pacify, only to be left at the table hungry and wanting more.

So, how does this tie-in the our character?

Based off Paul's definition, then my time before Christ was darkness. I would be inclined to agree. To any skeptics, I appreciate your opinion, but I believe this to be true. No one is paying me to say this. This was my life. Even as a kid who grew-up in a churched family, it wasn't until I was older before I really understood Jesus. I am still trying to figure out Jesus. Jesus challenges my conceptions of Him daily. Sounds weird, but it's true. But as it stands, my actions laid bare before King only stand prove of the glorious salvation and sanctification that are found in the person of Jesus Christ.

Wait...wait...what about the bad stuff you've done? You're just not accountable for those things now because you're, "saved?"

Again, if my time before Christ was darkness, then my time in Christ is light! (Ephesians 5:8b)

       "...but now you are light in the Lord. Live as    children of light."

Based on that, my life in Christ is not a cop-out. There is no darkness in Christ! Like I said, everything is laid bare. Jesus exposes & saves from sin. He does not cover it up! I can choose to be perpetually crippled by my imperfections, or I can give into the freedom that is found in Christ!

Whether you feel as if you don't a savior, or if you feel that you're too far-gone to be saved, Jesus still wants and pursues you. Romans 5:8 says that while we were/are sinners, Christ died for us. It's an open invitation. We should long to be known by the content of our character.

Does your character hide in darkness, or celebrate in the Light?

Please fell free to leave feedback. Good, bad, or indifferent.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Content of our Character Pt. 1

During his famous, "I Have A Dream," speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. longed for a day where his children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the, "content of their character."
Thankfully, I know nothing about unjust discrimination because my skin color isn't a certain shade. Sadly, many have and continue to face similar prejudices based on nothing more than genetics.

While the focus of this post does not fall on racial discrimination, I would like to talk about the content of our characters. 

Like Dr. King, I hope that people will judge me by the content of my character. As I type that, there is a certain amount of pressure that I feel weighing down on me. To make a claim like that is to put yourself on trial...EVERYDAY! That is not a, "Whoa is me," claim. Rather, it is a call to remain steadfast! 

We all face some type of judgement everyday of our lives. As a Christian, I believe that a judgement of my character is only magnified because of my faith. However, I don't consider this a bad thing. Whether a self-assessment or someone bringing something to my attention, I want my character to parallel that of Christ's. Do I mess up? Yes! Do I mess up a lot? Sometimes! So, with that out of the way, no one (even myself) can claim that I'm perfect. Hopefully, and with sincere humility, I can learn from my mistakes and not fall prey to my own devices. 

There is a great adage, that pertains to character, that I love! It goes something like, "Character is who you are and what you do when no one is watching." This adage takes on different paradigm when you're a Christian, as your believe that God is ALWAYS watching! Then it takes on a even deeper level of intimate knowledge when you believe that God is omniscient. He knows every thought we have, or could have had. He knows every word, spoken or unspoken. He knows every action, whether acted on or not. When you place the content of my character in the hands of a God like this, then you can't help but feel a LOT exposed.

I can fake it for everyone person that reads this. My, "character," may seem to be impeccable, but in private your opinion of my character would do a 180.

So, what do we need to do to keep our character in check? Keep an eye out for part #2...