Thursday, December 20, 2012

Surrender ALL

So what can I say?  What can I do? But offer this heart O God, Completely to You -Hillsong

In this nation and in this time we are constantly bombarded with places we have to go and people we have to see and things we have to do.  There is never enough time for the truly important activities in life.  Any person with a job knows that there are never enough hours in the week.  As a Christian I believe this is intensified because our duties go beyond this world.  As Christians our first commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37 – 48).  This means God should be more than an afterthought; He is our first thought.  How can we make time for God when we have all these other commitments?  Is this really what God is asking us to do?  In God’s commandments there are no exceptions.  Such as love the Lord you God on Sundays only, or love the Lord your God only at home, or love the Lord your God when you feel His presence.  God wants all of us especially in our busyness.  How can we as Christians reconcile our busyness in light of this first commandment?  The “great and first commandment” speaks for itself.  God does not want our seconds but He wants our best and He deserves our best.  He is our maker, whose image we are made in.  Ever since sin entered the world God has been trying to get us back.  In order for God to redeem us he needs us to be Holy as He is Holy.  That is a near impossible task because once we sin once we can never be as Holy as God is Holy.   Luckily God had a plan!   

Phase one involved setting up a system of sacrificing animals through which the nation of Israel could have their sin forgiven.  The issue was that even though the sacrificing of animals did forgive sins it did not fix the root of the problem which is humans have a sinful nature.   The Israelites kept sinning.  That is why God had to roll out phase two of His plan to redeem all humanity: God sent his son Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice.  A sacrifice that covers the sins we have committed as well as the sins we are going to commit.  This fixes the root of the problem because it allows Jesus to come in to our souls and change our sinful nature to a God-like nature (don’t ask me how, it is just super cool).  This can only take place when you “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  That is the only way God can live in us and with us.

God did not leave us with those words and hoped we would figure it out.  He left us His Holy Spirit (which is the part that comes in and changes our soul) and He left us with a recording of His sayings and His Prophets.  During phase one of God’s plan he gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).   All Ten Commandments are directed at our actions.  Then during phase two of God’s plan, Jesus builds on the Ten Commandments and takes it beyond just our actions to the intent behind our actions.  On the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).  Jesus wants more than just the correct actions from the Ten Commandments; He wants our heart soul and mind as well.  In that same sermon Jesus tells us that 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” and 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5: 21 – 22 & 27 – 28).  God wants all of us!  He wants our heart, our mind, our soul.  

How do we go about giving God our ALL?  There are so many other things screaming for our attention that we may lose sight of what we are to be focusing on first.  At the same time God does not want us to lock ourselves in the room and read the Bible and pray all day.  Jesus made that evident when he told us to 19”Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:19 – 20)  Focusing on God is more than reading the Bible and prayer.  I call it “breathing God.”  Every breath I take I should be thinking about how my actions are affecting the Kingdom.

As American Christians, we need to stop allowing ourselves to be content being comfortable.  A passage that really has me concerns is Matthew 7:21 – 23 where Jesus says, 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’  These people that Jesus is rejecting were good people who have done good actions.  Jesus is not solely interested in our actions but he is interested in our WHOLE being.  He is not impressed by how many people we save, or how many people we heal, or how many kids we played with.  What He wants and what He asks for is US; how long did this person spend “breathing God?”  I know I am not there and I feel far from it.  It is a journey that begins anew everyday and gets stronger every time I chose to answer the question:  “Is this action/thought really glorifying and honoring my God whom I am called to love with all my heart, soul, and mind?” 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

True Friend

32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

"Why don’t you come right out and say it?  Even if the words are probably gonna hurt I’d rather have the truth than something insincere." -Relient K

The truth is powerful.  It is full of truth.  It shapes what we do and how we interact with people.  Sadly we are directed not by full truth but by our perception of the truth.  Rarely are we given one hundred percent truth but instead we are given some deviation of the truth which forms our perceptions.  Telling the truth should be easy and something instinctive to all of us but it does not seem to come natural all the time.  What comes natural, at least to me, is telling others what they want to hear.  I aim to please people.  That is my nature.  But there is something to be praised about being one hundred percent truthful.  I have found that my relationships that are built on truth are more solid than any other type of relationship.  My “true” friendships are the ones that last.

Jesus told everyone exactly who he was and those who could accept him for who he was were more than his friends, they were his companion.  In John 6 Jesus says, “47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh….”  In response many of his disciples left but those who knew the truth about Jesus stayed: “66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

This passage, without knowing Jesus, is extremely difficult to accept.  Jesus is telling His audience that they need to eat His actual flesh and drink His actual blood in order to have eternal life.  As in everything Jesus had perfect timing in knowing when to tell the truth.  Had Jesus been saying these things at the beginning of His ministry no one would have followed Him.  If He had waited much longer the crowds would have crowned Him King (because He had just fed the 5000).  Jesus knew He was not an earthly king and He knew that He had to die so He made a statement to see who his real disciples were.  If you notice, in verse 66, the Bible uses the words “many of his disciples turned back.”  The people who turned away were not His acquaintances but these were men who followed Him regularly.

Luckily for us we don’t have to have Jesus’ perfect timing because the fate of every soul does not hinge on us revealing the truth about us to people.  But I think we can learn from Jesus’ authenticity.

The first step is knowing your audience.  The relationship between a husband and wife should be the most transparent of any relationship.  After that, relationships with members of the same gender should move towards complete transparency but relationships with members of the opposite gender should not.  Opposite gender relationships can stir up too much emotion and it is never a good idea to tempt ones loyalty to his or her spouse.  There are too many chances for “Well she just gets me better than my wife.”  Even if you are not married developing a “true” relationship with an opposite gender is still dangerous unless the ultimate goal is marriage.  If the goal is not marriage then it can cause mixed signals and hurt feelings.

The next step is knowing the situation.  Relationships should start off slow and if it continues more and more truth should be added.  Jesus did not start off telling the Twelve to eat His body and drink His blood but waited for the right moment when he knew the Twelve could handle it.  We have to ease into telling the truth and typically the flow of a relationship will lead to more and more truth being shared.  Finding that balance is difficult but if it works it will result in gaining a true friend.

This is the way to create lasting friendships.  Without the truth, friends will come and go because humans seem to be able to sense authenticity.  If you only say what others want to hear you may get lots of “friends” but true friends are only produced from a truth-filled relationship.

There are many “buts” when it comes to sharing the truth.  Many of those “buts” have merit.  The number one reason why people do not share the truth is because they do not want to hurt the other person. I believe there is a time to try to protect the other person but the longer that a truth is concealed, the more likely it is that person whom that truth is hidden from will discover the truth.  Or even worse, they will make up their own version of the truth.  I was recently at a funeral of a young man who died too young and the circumstances surrounding his death were unclear.  His father stood up in front of 1500 people and told them about how he wanted to conceal the truth because it did not honor his dead son’s memory.  But then he told the crowd that, “The truth sets the mind free.  Without the truth our minds comes up with their own conclusions.”  When the truth is told it frees the listener and the speaker.  The speaker does not need to worry about any lie being uncovered and the listener does not need to worry about uncovering any deceit.

What if my friends end up leaving after I tell them the truth?  I would respond with the question, “Were they a real friend to begin with?”  Jesus’ statement separated His true followers from those who were merely lukewarm followers.  In the same way, someone who cannot accept the truth about you may not be the type of person that you want to invest in.  I know that if everyone cannot accept the truth about who I am, God still loves me and He will never leave me nor forsake me.  The loneliness will come and go and friendships shift but there is still that constant in life. 

True friends see you for who you are and accept you for that.  I know I have made my fair share of mistakes when it comes to telling the truth and being a true friend.  I would say one thing and then do another, and I didn’t allow people to see the true me because I was afraid they would leave if they knew me.  Even though I never shared the truth with them, they still left because they could tell I was not being open and honest with them.  I now attempt to tell the truth and be open and honest when the time is right.  That way if they do leave, I have peace that I did everything I could to try and create a true friendship; rather than feeling guilty that I didn’t allow them to see the true “me.”