Human Nature

Tuesday Devotional: Zephaniah 2

bibleThis is the city of revelry
that lived in safety.
She said to herself,
“I am the one! And there is none besides me.”
What a ruin she has become,
a lair for wild beasts!
All who pass by her scoff
and shake their fists.

The lie of sin is that we not only have the right to take the throne as King but that we will never be overtaken, deposed or removed.  What Kingdom has ever outlasted time?  What King has ever sat on a throne for eternity?  None.  All people pass.  All kingdoms collapse.  The most foolish thing we could possibly do is to ignore the words of the living God.

The second most foolish thing we could possibly do is to deny the historical record that proves God’s point. What you see today will not last.  What you do today will last for eternity.  Seek truth and find it, or pursue a lie and believe it.  In God’s great grace and mercy He has not hidden the truth from us.  He has revealed clearly and for all eyes to see where we’ve been and where we are going.

But sin runs deep and in sin is a king who has stolen the crown and will fight at all costs to retain control.  Don’t let it.  The fight to take the throne cannot be won, not should it ever be fought.  Fighting for control of the throne WILL precede a downfall and will destroy the kingdom and the king at the same time.  The throne and the power you think it gives you is a lie, and it can never give you what you hope it can.  The throne belongs to Christ. Only under His lordship can you find what you are truly looking for.  Look hard at Christ and turn your eyes upon Jesus.  His Lordship does not take anything from you other than the delusion that is slowly taking your life away one day at a time.  God has always intended for us to live and to live forever.  A life hidden in Christ will last forever and it will outlast all else.  Choose to live.  Choose life!

 

 

Tuesday Devotional: Daniel 10

bibleRead Daniel 10

Set your mind to gain understanding.

Humble yourself.

Be weak.

What God requires from us and what we are supposed to do as Christians is relatively simple.  We often complicate our orders or commands because to take them at face value would simply hurt, demand and cost too much.  But we MUST take them at face value if our faith is to have any value whatsoever.

Set your mind to gain understanding.

You do not understand the mysteries of the world that you live in.  Most times you do not understand the mystery that is you.  We learn, we grow and we understand more, but we are always creatures of inquiry with much to ask.  The world suggests and in some ways demands that we obtain knowledge by a certain age.  The world promotes learning in childhood and becomes less and less patient with the learning process as we grow older.  If we follow the forceful encouragement of the world to profess knowledge in the things that are impossible to know confidently we find ourselves the most foolish of all.  To know God is to know that we are limited beings created by an infinite God.  Therefore, admitting that we don’t know is actually the beginning of knowing.  To admit our ignorance is the first step in gaining the wisdom of God.  It is impossible to know God if we profess knowledge that exists apart from Him.  To know that you do not need God is to openly admit that there is much you do not know.

Humble yourself.

Admitting that God exists or that there is need of God in your life is one thing.  Humbling yourself to obey what He says is totally different.  Many profess faith in God but then do what He clearly says not to do.  To follow someone requires that we trust them as the authority and we acknowledge our need to be led.  To follow someone also requires us to submit our plan for the sake of a better plan made by a more proficient planner.  Humbling ourselves is not easy, often aggressively resisted by our sin.  For some, to be humble is to be wrong or weak.  However, by humbling ourselves to God we find that while we were wrong on our own, we are now eternally right, following the commands of a perfect God.   While we were weak before God we are now eternally strong in the hands of the creator God that holds life itself in His hands.  To be humble is to admit reverence to someone, something greater than us.  To know that you do not need to submit to anyone or anything prevents God from being God and therefore makes it impossible for you to know the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ.

Be weak.

Many people come to know God at a low point in life.  They find themselves at the bottom, all alone, completely without. They feel that while everything else has failed, perhaps God will lift them up, comfort them and provide what they truly need.  Many people who profess faith in Christ have never seen this place of weakness.  While this is an entirely different problem, there are also many who have seen this place but then have ventured far from it, never to return.  The common mistake people make is to believe that this place of weakness is to be grown out of and moved on from.  The truth is that to grow out or move on from this place of salvation is to grow out or move on from the very thing that saved them, Jesus Christ.  A Christian is eternally raised up by Jesus in the resurrection, eternally comforted by Emmanuel, God with us, and eternally fed by the Bread of Life.  Weakness is daily present in the life of a Christian, not to exhibit weakness for weakness’ sake, but to reveal and testify to the presence of the living God for Christ’s sake.

 

Previews of Heaven: The Confident Claims

This reflection series is about Heaven. To download this reflection series, go here.

Open Door

Movie previews are great at making the particular featured movie seem like the best movie ever made, ever. It doesn’t matter if the actors in the movie have a track record of box office busts or if the director has “lost his touch.”  During those two minutes, anyone can look like a genius. I remember a few years ago there was a lot of hype about two movies. The first movie was a science fiction movie, “Cloverfield.” The preview for this movie had a lot of people talking and the hype was impossible to avoid. The other was a movie called, “The Happening.” This movie was from the director M. Night Shyamalan, of such box office hits as “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs.”  Many people were talking about how great this movie looked and how excited they were to see it. However, when both movies were released, audiences were largely disappointed. Moviegoers felt taken by the timeless “preview” illusion.

Throughout our lives we will all experience setbacks, obstacles that try our patience, strength and character. As time progresses, many often resign to the particular belief that, “thus is life.” There is a resignation to a belief that some things just go wrong. People get hurt, things don’t work out and there is ultimately nothing we can do about it. But the Bible says otherwise. In the Bible we read that we all can experience the fruit of the Spirit during our time on Earth, and that in Heaven, suffering, pain, sadness and injustice will be reversed and undone.

Heaven promises a reemergence or renewal of the original state of existence, an existence void of all of the things unwelcome in this life like pain and suffering. There is a reason why, regardless of our differing religious beliefs, we all are so uncomfortable with crimes against the innocent and the breaking of a heart. The Bible explains that this inner distaste for such things lies at the heart of our original state within the original creation. We are troubled because we were not made for this place. We are troubled because this “preview life” is only a preview with foretastes, but not the actual full-length feature. Paul expands on this point in his letter to the Philippians:

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the apostle John is given visions of this final recreation and return to the original creation.  The visions of John support the claims of Jesus in regards to the final act of “recreation” and “regeneration.” 

Previews of Heaven: The Best Moments

This reflection series is about Heaven. To download this reflection series, go here.

 

Open Door

source

The relationship between the moviegoer and the movie preview is a complicated one. On one side, we appreciate the previews because by them we stay hooked into the world of movies and entertainment. By watching previews we are updated on the latest and greatest in cinematic brilliance.  Our interest in movies remains consistently high. On the other hand, the movie preview can be something we’d rather do without. The sole motivation that brings us to the movie theater is the feature film, not just a preview. It is for the feature that we blocked out 3 hours in our schedule and paid for our tickets.  We know that in order to stay excited and in tune with the latest movies, we must see the previews.  Therefore, we accept the preview more as something to be endured than enjoyed. Previews are made to achieve three primary goals. They should:

  • Display the best moments
  • Make radically confident claims
  • Leave us wanting more

Over the next three weeks, we’re going to use this analogy of a movie preview to compare with the way Christians are instructed to think about Heaven while we are living for Christ on the Earth.

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It’s always amazing how a two minute trailer can make almost any movie, regardless of the true level of cinematic quality, seem worth watching. This idea reminds me of an episode from one of my favorite television shows, Seinfeld. In one particular episode, the flawed “people’s person” George Constanza finds himself dating a girl who has no knowledge of his long list of faults, flaws, and setbacks. He proceeds to act like everything he’s accomplished in his life (a job with a steady and competitive salary, knowledge of New York City and a stable standard of living) had all miraculously come together within days. By doing this, he hoped to impress his new girlfriend with his sudden success and accomplishments. While telling his friend Jerry about this plan, he said, “You know, if you take everything I’ve done in my entire life and condense it down into one day, it looks decent!”

This is exactly what a movie preview attempts to do. The preview has two minutes to condense the best moments, the most action-packed fight scenes and the funniest one-liners into a compact one-two punch experience that will leave everyone anxious for its release. This is why so many movies wind up failing at the box office. In many cases, the preview outdoes the feature film.

Speaking in terms of our earthly life and its relation to heaven, what we experience in this life is what the Bible calls a “foretaste.” Embodied in the life of Jesus Christ, then regenerated in the lives of disciples, are experiences and foretastes of things unknown, yet promised. At the heart of each of our lives are experiences of purity and perfection that are only attained and experienced intermittently.

Paul writes about these experiences by comparing them to “fruit” when he writes in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

During our lives, God willing, we all will experience each of these at their purest form at least once. These moments tend to last only for a little while, but we remember the experience forever. The moment we were truly loved by someone, we never forget. The moment someone was truly faithful to us, we never forget. The same can be said about all nine “fruits.” These fruits are born out of the Spirit and the Spirit is born out of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his being and identity, Jesus embodied all of these fruits. They are, in turn, recreated and reflected in the lives of those reborn of the Spirit.

The difference between the way that we experience this “foretaste” and the way that a movie preview attempts to impress a moviegoer, is that there is no secret that the movie preview is attempting to sell something that cannot entirely satisfy. If the movie is not as good as the preview, the audience is unsatisfied. But even if the movie is as good as the preview promises, it’s still simply a movie. In this case the audience, while completely entertained, leaves exchanging comments like, “Well, life’s not like the movies.” But the essence of the fruit of the Spirit as a foretaste to something unknown, something wonderful, and something promised, is the truth that the foretaste is for something that exists.  That offers satisfaction, and ultimately delivers. This “thing” is heaven, and it is there that we not only can experience these fruits individually, but also where we experience all fruits simultaneously in an ongoing coexistence with the “gardener” himself, God.

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Samuel 12

bibleRead 2 Samuel 12

Often we understand the act of sinning in the same way we understand breaking a rule.  Committing a sin is doing something you are not supposed to do.  Although to a certain extent this understanding is accurate, the reality of sin that requires a savior is much more complex.

If avoiding sin was as simple as not breaking certain rules, then there’s reason to believe that we could do away with sin altogether with hard work, focus and determination.  If we can be law-abiding citizens when it comes to traffic laws, why can’t we be law-abiding citizens when it comes to God’s law?  The difference between breaking a traffic law and sinning against God is that one brings to mind a clear framework of consequences, while the other does not.

When we approach a red light we slow down to a full stop, because we know that if we are caught speeding through a red light and breaking a traffic law we will have to pay a fine that we would rather not have to pay.  So we stop.  Sin is different.  While there are specific things God has commanded us not to do, we tend to understand God in one of two ways.  On the one hand, God is love and Jesus forgives us so we say, “Sorry,” and we move on, no harm no foul.  On the other hand, God is outraged with our transgression, but thankfully can be appeased with enough prayers, lit candles, hours at the church or hours reading the Bible.  We say we understand the consequences of sin, but in reality we believe strongly that the terrifying consequence of eternal damnation can be avoided or prevented at the hand of grace or good works.

The biblical representation of sin and the problem of sin is quite different than most of us think.  While we tend to view sin as action the reality is that sin is an identity.  It is not something we do from time to time.  Sin is something we are, what we breathe in and out even in the moments when we feel far from sinful thoughts or actions.  Sin is in us. It is desperately, persistently seeking opportunities to act.

To understand sin in our lives we must understand its origins.  If we look at how sin entered the world we learn two things that help us to understand the echo of sin throughout history and into the present day.  First, sin entered the world as a result of direct disobedience to God’s command and God’s creation.  Second, and more importantly, the act of disobedience was preceded by the belief in a lie: that we know better than God what we should or shouldn’t do, and that while God seeks to merely glorify himself, freedom from God would end our bondage to His laws and allow us to create our own laws and rule according to our own desires.

Looking back to the origin of sin it also becomes clear that the consequences of sin are more comprehensive and expansive than we once thought.  If sin is disobeying God’s commands and creation and deciding to glorify ourselves as opposed to God, sin is not what we “sometimes do.” We sin throughout the day, and the impact  of our sinfulness on others, the world and God is too complex for us to cover up.

Sin is our instinct, and it is a destructive one.  Sin does not multiply peace.  Sin disrupts peace.  Sin destroys peace.  It is vicious.  Sin blinds us to the consequences our actions and thoughts have on those around us in wild self-glorification.  We can’t fix our sinful natures; we need to be rescued from them. The most powerful prayer we can pray is “Lord, save me from myself!”

Tuesday Devotional: Joshua 20

Read Joshua 20 bible

There is a scathing irony in how man views God and how man views himself. Man’s belief in his own humanity and righteousness is foolishly skewed and misguided. Man possesses a view of himself in regards to righteousness and justice that has been proven to be false throughout all of human history. Within man does in fact exist the purity of love and justice that man so desperately defends and professes. However, alongside this purity exists an inability to wield the power of sin also present within man in abundance.

This presence of sin makes executing pure love and justice naturally impossible for man on his own. While man may attempt to be fair or righteous on a daily basis, there will ultimately come a time when he is wronged and seeks justice not for the sake of pure justice but out of a personal and often irrational reaction to the injustice done to him. When action is taken from a standpoint of being wronged, one can no longer claim justice. Justice is objective and unbiased. Justice must be upheld with a standard based not the emotions or opinions of any one man but a fair verdict applicable to all. The scathing irony is that while man often views God as being unjust in the unequal distribution of suffering and blessing portioned out to all of humanity throughout the world, the true source of injustice does not fall at the feet of a Holy God but at Sinful Man. The instinct of man is to be moved by injustice and yearn for justice but falls short in execution. Many people want to act but do not. Many people want to speak up but remain silent. Many people want to be unbiased but cannot.

Therefore, fully aware of his creation and the inadequacies of the human heart to be a judge, the creator God found it necessary to establish law in the world where man could not be expected to create justice. Just as children cannot rule over a household, nor would they ever be expected to, God acknowledged that humankind would not be capable of running the world on its own. While the rules of a household may appear confining to a child or the rules of God may appear confining to human desire, God’s rules and regulations are not purely an exhibition of God’s authority and power. The mere fact that God has given the law and regulations by which to follow it is a testament to the loving nature of God himself. Seeing that a creation left to its own devices would destroy itself, God knew that lacking the law meant death for his children and giving the law meant life. The law is not an oppressor. The law and the regulations that come with are liberators. Within the law is freedom to enjoy this life without living in fear of losing it at a moment’s notice. The law does not prevent us from experiencing our true potential for good. Rather, the law protects us from experiencing our true potential for destruction. With God one finds peace in knowing that in his presence is safety from ourselves. Without God we are left out in the open, unprotected and vulnerable, living in a constant state of anxiety, apprehension and fear.