Category Archives: Thinky

Sermon Notes: Prequel

Jeremiah challenged me to post sermon notes up here, but since we’re near the end of 1 John in church, I felt the need to lead into it. During the last few weeks of Bible class last year, I really dug in to the book of 1 John. It’s an awesome book, and it’s full of super practical stuff. I’ll stop rambling now and get to the notes. I would highly suggest grabbing your Bible right now and opening it to 1 John, because I can’t exactly post the whole book up here.

1 John 1

Main point #1: Word=Jesus

God’s word has been made a physical object which we are able to use, interact with, and experience on a physical, human level. Also significant here is that the Word is described as the Word of life. If you flip back to the gospel of John, you’ll see that he was referring to Jesus. He makes it abundantly clear that the Word is Jesus. He appeared, and so became manifest to all of humanity. People were able to see Him, experience Him. Jesus. The Word. We know what/who He is and what He says, and we can testify to it.

Main point #2: Walk in God’s Light

God is light. He is absolute perfection. There’s no darkness, shadow, no gray area when it comes to the things of God. That means that anyone who claims to have fellowship with Him must follow suit. If one says they have fellowship with Him, yet does not show the evidence of that, they’re lying to themselves and to God. Light and darkness don’t mix. Try lighting a candle in a completely dark room. The light will completely swallow up the darkness. It’s not like you can have like a floating orb of dark in a room that is unaffected by the presence of light. Darkness can only live in places where there is no light. So obviously, you can’t walk side by side with someone who is Light if you are living in sin and darkness. It just doesn’t work. However, that’s not to say that those who are in Christ don’t sin. We’re fallen creatures. It happens. But if we strive to walk in the Light, Christ has promised that His grace will cover us and cleanse us, allowing us to have fellowship with Him. It doesn’t mean we’ve never sinned at all, it means our sins have been paid for by the blood of Jesus.

Fact of Life: This took way longer than it was supposed to, I’m sorry. More to come soon. And when I say soon, I mean like 2 weeks maybe.

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Jesus cookies. Wait what?

1 John 5:21 — Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

This morning I was told that I was not allowed to exit my room (<–paraphrase) until I had read my Bible. It was a good challenge. I’m not in the habit of doing that, I’m embarrassed to admit. So when I was startled from oblivion, I dismissed my waker and immediately grabbed my Bible. I flipped it open and began to look for little orange brackets around some verse– any verse– that was even remotely applicable to my current situation. I landed on 1 John 5:21.

I love the book of 1 John. It’s so practical and straightforward about who God is, and how to know that you KNOW Him, how to be His child and act like it, and in knowing Him, learning to Love like Him. We’re talking Jesus-died kind of Love, not cookies-are-awesome kind of love. It’s mind-boggling. And then you get to the end of the book, the very last verse, and there’s this random little blurb about idols. Idols aren’t mentioned anywhere else in that book at all. But there it is. It always stuck out to me, and that’s why I marked it out in the first place, but it took on a new meaning today.

*Disclaimer: I don’t know what John really meant when he wrote that verse. This is what I got from it.*

John talks a lot about Love in this book. Loving like how Jesus Loved the whole world enough to lay down His life for a bunch of pagan heathen scumbags who He knew would willfully disregard Him, mock Him, and generally reject Him. Personally, I find it difficult to be around people who don’t like me very much, much less LOVE them. And yet that is what I, as God’s child, am not asked but COMMANDED to do. I could easily go off on a whole other rant on that but right now I’m talking about idols. The thing about idols is that they are things that we think we love. And we think we love them SO MUCH that they take priority in our lives and in so doing, ruin them. There’s a reason God talked about idols in the 10 commandments. They have a way of sneaking in and taking over everything, and sometimes you don’t even really notice it until it’s a humongous problem in your life. So here’s John, talking all about what Love really is, and he tosses this thing about idols in there. It’s to make sure that you have the RIGHT KIND of Love happening. Jesus-died Love not cookies-are-awesome love.

What’s your love about? What do you Love? Who do you love? Is there something you love that needs to be checked out as a cookies-are-awesome kind of love as opposed to Jesus-died Love?

Fact of Life: This was written terribly. I rambled a lot and started sentences with and. Hopefully you caught was I was saying though, because it had a major impact on my life. If it didn’t, maybe I’ll re-write it sometime so that it makes more sense.

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Some thoughts on giving

Just read this and had to share it:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. (Luke 6:27-31 ESV)

I’m sure you’ve read this passage before, but I want to point out something I’d never noticed here. We often hear the first part of this passage, but I’ve honestly never heard the last part of it, namely the instruction to “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from the one who takes away your goods do not demand them back”. I think that statement is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t spend too long here.

I do want to say, however, that I know of very few people who follow these instructions. I know I don’t. How often have I passed by someone holding a cardboard sign on the corner when I know full well that I have enough cash in my wallet to but them a nice meal? I can try to justify not giving, but it’s not going to work. Jesus says that I’m to give to them without worrying about whether I’ll get my cash back, or what they’ll use it for.

And that’s about all I have to say about that. I don’t know if that’ll hit you the same way it did me, but I had to at least put it out there.

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Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
(Romans 13:1 ESV)

Romans 13 has always been a difficult passage for me. Submission in general is a difficult topic for me. I don’t like it. The natural leader in me wants to be in control, in command. My flesh hates losing control. I tend to freak out when that happens. But some things have happened recently, causing me to lose some authority over things. So I turned to the scriptures to make sense out of it. Through these circumstances (which I’ll spare you, because it would take forever to explain), God has shown me that I never really had any authority in the first place. It’s been a humbling few weeks for me, and I want to share some of that.

Let’s start by looking back at that passage. Paul says, “Let every person be subject to…authority.” Not just the followers. Not just the weak-willed. Even the strongest-willed among us is to be subject to authority. Whether it be under a boss, parents, government, or God Himself, everyone on this planet is subject to some sort of authority. Unfortunately, human nature is to rebel. Has been since the very beginning. This is equivalent to rebellion against God.

Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
(Romans 13:2-4 ESV)

Now here’s the hard part for me. If I’m to believe the Scriptures (and I’d be an idiot not to…), then ALL authority is an extension of God’s own. In fact, God has appointed them to their position. We are to obey them as we would obey God.  This includes the people who seem like they’re flat-out wrong. Put another way, if my parents ask me to to do something I think is stupid, the order may as well have come from God. If a boss asks me to complete a menial task in a horribly inefficient manner, God Himself may as well have asked me. To disobey them would be to disobey God.

Taking it a step further now

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
(Hebrews 13:17 ESV)

Heavy-duty stuff here. The writer of Hebrews is telling us that we’re to obey our leaders. Not only that, but we’re to do it cheerfully. Even when the commands are lame and asinine. He tells us that if we groan, we’re missing the point. This is a really hard pill for me to swallow. Every part of my flesh screams that it’s stupid. It screams, “But God! Surely you wouldn’t ask me to do that! Why should I do it?!” God allows these things to happen to stretch us, refine us, and give us opportunity to kill the flesh. In fact, if my flesh is complaining, I’m probably doing something right.

Now John had a few more choice words about this business. He says that if we love God, we’ll obey Him. Check it out:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
(1 John 5:1-3 ESV)

Again, John just said that if we love God, we’ll keep His commands. God has commanded us to obey authorities, and to do it cheerfully. Do you see where I’m going with this? If we don’t obey authority, we prove by action that we don’t really love God. Holy smokes, that smarts. Put that in first-person. If I don’t submit to authority cheerfully, I am proving by action that I don’t love God.


Now, that’s really hard for me to write, because I am normally the last person to talk about submission. I’m the guy who will might do what you say, but if I don’t like it you’ll probably have to drag me kicking and screaming. But God calls me to submit cheerfully! The dilemma here is that it’s impossible to submit cheerfully at all times. There is not one person on earth who can do it. Sure, some can fake it for a while, but eventually circumstances will arise that bring their flesh to the surface. With me it probably happens more often than others.

However, part of following God is doing things that don’t come naturally. I wrote earlier that I was in the process of having authority being stripped away from me. Through this, however, God is doing a work in me. He is showing me that the less control I have, the more I have to rely on the fact that God is in control. I can’t say that I’m a master of this yet (or even close). In fact, I’m quite bad at it. The best I can say is that I’m learning.

Recommended Reading:

Touching Godliness Through Submission – KP Yohannan


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Spiritual Weed

Ok ok, calm down. (Note: If you’re easily offended by things and you’re not strong enough in your faith to handle this, you might want to just leave now. Because I’m going to step on toes and I’m not going to apologize for it.) That title is weird, I know. But it’s something I’ve been struggling with a lot lately. God has started a fire in me recently that has made me super hungry for His presence. It’s really cool, because prior to that I had been in that limbo phase where you’re not fallen away from God, it’s just… you haven’t felt His presence lately. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Some of you may be going through that right now. Anyway, I met with God at a prayer meeting before school, a while ago. It was a spiritual high, and I knew God was doing something great in my life. A few weeks ago, I decided to attend a youth group where a bunch of my friends (who are super on fire) are going. That’s where the whole spiritual weed thing came in.

When I walked in, it was like walking into Hollister. It was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, and the music was so loud you couldn’t hear your friend yelling right next to you. I tried to keep an open mind. Maybe that’s just how they roll, whatever. The music was good. Then the service started and everyone crowded to the front. That’s cool, down with that. They sang alternative rock songs that happened to be about Jesus, not actual worship songs. And also one Jesus Culture song. The Spirit was not in that place. There was so much hype, it was ridiculous. By the end, there were people on their knees praying in tongues. This was a new experience for me. I’ve never been in a place where people prayed in tongues, and it certainly did not sit right. Paul talks about the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14, and he gives very specific guidelines on how they are to be used.

1 Corinthians 12: 7-11 — But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

1 Corinthians 14:13-14 — Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.

I believe in the gift of tongues. I believe it’s a gift of the Spirit, absolutely. However, just because you’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit does not mean that you’re immediately going to be speaking in tongues. We have all been given different gifts through the Spirit. Later in that chapter, Paul talks about unity in the Body of Christ. One is no more important than another, and we all depend on one another to function properly.

I’m getting off topic though. What I’m really struggling with is all the hype surrounding this situation. When I was at that youth group, I might as well have been at Lollapallooza or something. Emotions ran high, energy was through the roof, but the source of it was questionable. Were these people really moved by the Spirit, or was it just the loud music and the expectation of being moved? It’s like the last night of camp. Always super emotional, always a come to Jesus thing. And you go, and you get all high on God and what happens after that? You go home, and nothing has changed. You probably haven’t actually grown. You just got high. I’ve struggled for a long time about whether to say this, if it’s right, if it’s too controversial, but I think this is something that really needs to be addressed. Being filled with the Spirit is an awesome thing, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the same as getting high on God. One involves solid, biblical teaching and worship, the other involves loud music and blinky lights. And hype. Lots and lots of hype.

So here’s something to think about, what does being filled with the Spirit even look like? Is it like going to the gas station, filling up, and then running on fumes by the end of the week? No. And it’s not like being a pothead either. You don’t smoke up on God and ride the high for all it’s worth. It’s a relationship. Good relationships don’t spike and drop, they build up gradually, always growing. If you are saved, you are automatically filled with the Holy Spirit. He never leaves you, it’s not like you can even go and get “filled up” with the Holy Spirit anyway. Where was He before if you had to go get filled up?

John 14: 15-18 — If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.

There you go. Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit, who abides with us forever. You can’t go get filled up with Him because you already are. Or are you? If you need to go get filled, what was in you before?

And one other thing (I know, this is really long). Being high on God is an incredible experience, I’ll give you that. Sometimes, when our spirit is renewed with that fire, it’s easy to look at other people who aren’t as pumped as you and say “Well, obviously there’s something wrong with them. They don’t know Jesus like I do. Why isn’t everyone feeling this?” But here’s the thing: God works in individual people according to His plan for their lives. Just because one may be high on God (in a good way, not a superficial hype way), does not mean that everyone else isn’t experiencing God. He may be doing different things in the lives of others.

Ephesians 4:1-7 — I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God, and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Just writing this post was difficult. It’s been sitting here for over a month as I’ve struggled with it. And if I rambled and didn’t make sense, I’m sorry. But I want you to think. What is the point of all this hype? Why do you think you need to go get filled with the Holy Spirit? Is it really a desire for God, or is it the desire for the feeling you get? Don’t write that off. Think about it. Spend a solid 10 minutes on that. Do you really want God? Or do you just like that feeling? At that point, you’re hooked on spiritual weed. Examine your heart. Pray and meditate on this if it’s an issue for you. I’m not up on my high horse at all (no pun intended, sorry), because I’ve struggled with this too. Are you hooked on Jesus or spiritual weed?

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1. to stimulate, excite, or agitate (usually followed by up ): She was hyped up at the thought of owning her own car.
2. to create interest in by flamboyant or dramatic methods; promote or publicize showily: a promoter who knows how to hype a prizefight.
3. to intensify (advertising, promotion, or publicity) by ingenious or questionable claims, methods, etc. (usually followed by up).
4. to trick; gull.

5. exaggerated publicity; hoopla.
6. an ingenious or questionable claim, method, etc., used in advertising, promotion, or publicity to intensify the effect.
7. a swindle, deception, or trick.

Think about this. It’s the world we live in today. Advertising, videos, even church. There’s a whole lot of hype for something that may or may not have a whole lot of substance.

And here’s the part where I step on toes. Take, for example, the Kony 2012 movement. If you don’t know what it is, you’ve clearly been living under a rock for the last two weeks, because I’m pretty sure almost everyone with access to the internet has seen it. If you happen to be the only one left in America who hasn’t seen it yet, though, watch it here before reading any further. No, really, stop what you’re doing and watch it before you read the rest of this. Otherwise you will have no idea what I’m talking about and you’ll think I’m crazy. And if you do watch it and read what I have to say, you might think I’m a jerk. Whatever though, nobody’s forcing you to read this.

It’s thought-provoking, isn’t it? Makes you want to get off your butt and do something. Go get in somebody’s face about social activism. All from a 30 minute Youtube video. You’re excited, passionate, convicted. Kony is a horrible person and must be stopped, right? But let’s think about this. Prior to that video, I’m pretty sure you hadn’t heard the name Kony before, probably didn’t know what the LRA was. And now, here you are, ready to storm the White House in the name of a crisis that you know about just because of one Youtube video. You’re ready to go to that website, buy that action kit, do all that stuff. The only reason I can say this is because that was my exact reaction to the video. Then someone who thought rationally threw the blanket on my fire that I’m about to throw on yours.

Let me just say here, I have nothing against the goal of catching Joseph Kony in the year 2012. It’s a great thing. I hope it happens. However, I don’t think that making a video to stir the pot was necessarily the best way to go about it. Yes, Kony and the LRA are huge problems. Yes, people should be aware of what is happening in the world even if they aren’t living with the problems being presented. But getting a bunch of angry teenagers together, giving them a cause, and singing kum ba yah in a drum circle isn’t getting any terrorists arrested. It’s making a bunch of cookie-cutter teens into angry “social activists” who won’t know what to do when someone asks them what they really believe about something that wasn’t covered in that video. Recently, frontman Jason Russel was taken into custody for a nude rampage in the streets of San Diego. There goes a ton of credibility. The organization has been criticized for spending more of their budget on making videos than helping kids, which, I mean, awareness is good and stuff, but again, angry teenagers are not helping save children. They’re still dying every day while we’re sitting here on our rear ends being all like “oh somebody should really do something about this. It’s horrible what’s happening over there. It’s a disgrace. Blablabla Kony 2012 *incoherent mumbling*”

The whole movement is taking a lot of heat lately. It’s taking heat for being all hype and no substance. It’s taking heat for presenting skewed information. It’s taking heat because the director lost his marbles a little bit. And here’s the part where Jesus, Christianity, and a little bit of common sense come in.

Colossians 2:8 — Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

Basically, don’t let someone with a fancy, flashy video tell you what to think. Do your own research, study the scriptures, then decide what you’re going to do about it. It would be dumb to do anything less. I’m not telling you what to think, I’m telling you what I think. I want you to think for yourself.

2 Corinthians 10:3 — For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.

In the video, a dramatic montage is shown of youth gathered at a rally, shouting the following words: “We’ve seen these kids. We’ve heard their cries. This war must end. We will not stop. We will not fear. We will fight war.” Ok for one, I’m pretty sure most of these kids have never stepped off of American soil, much less into the thick of where all this stuff is happening. They have not seen anything yet. And neither have I, I’ll be honest. But it sure sounds cool. It sounds like going off to fight the most noble war there is. But war isn’t clean. There’s mess, there’s stuff that we’re not hearing about. I hope Kony gets caught, I really do. I hope he gets strung up for the world to see. But the people who want to get involved in this need to understand that it’s not as simple as authorizing troops to go in after him. People will die. Kids will die. You can’t get into this thing and keep your hands clean. It’s not a matter of donating a few dollars a month to an organization nobody’s ever heard of. It’s a global thing now. What is that money doing? Making more videos to get people riled up? Whoop de doo. Go ahead, pay for more hype. It’s all just so exciting, I know. Just keep your head on straight, k?

Fact of life: Cats hate being thumped over the head with a bible just as much as people do.

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To My People

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”

-1 Peter 2: 9

This is my generation. We are chosen, royal, holy, special. We are called. Called by the God of the WHOLE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. This is kindof a big deal, because He’s talking to me, He’s talking to you, He’s talking to the people of our generation. I think there’s something wrong with a lot of the Christians in my generation. We’re wimpy. We’re too sensitive. We don’t take well to haters. Last week, someone drove by my school and cussed at the girls’ PE class. They didn’t take it too well.

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

-1 Peter 4: 12

Whoa now, calm down a little bit… FIERY TRIAL? Um, have you seen fire? Ever been in fire? Kinda scary. And yet here’s Peter telling us, “dude, this is to be expected. It’s not a big deal. This is what you signed up for.” How is it that we see persecution as some great injustice? Some major, unexpected offense? Jesus went through a whole lot more than this, and He didn’t whine about it. It was no big thing, He totally expected it. In a way, He kinda asked for it.

Ever notice how Christianity is super offensive to the rest of the world? Think about it. All of this “separation of church and state” business? It only applies to the Christian’s involvement with the state. Only Christians are forbidden from praying and reading the Bible in public schools. College professors directly attack Christians, mainly, in philosophy courses, history courses, science courses, you name it. No other religion gets treated like this. Why? Because it’s radical. Why was Jesus crucified? Sunday school answer is “for our sins,” but that’s not what was going through the religious leaders’ heads when they turned Him in. Jesus was crucified because He was radical. Too radical. You can’t just walk around saying that you’re the son of God. People kinda freak out when you say stuff like that.

As Christians, we are called to follow Christ’s radical example. This means that we will take fire. And what are we supposed to do with that? Rejoice, that’s what. If Christ was abused for what He taught, and we are abused for supporting what He taught, then that means we’re doing a good job. To quote The Dark Knight, “If you’re not getting shot at, you’re not doing your job right.” Seriously. If you’re not taking fire for the Gospel, then you’re probably not doing it right. Christianity is offensive to pretty much everyone who doesn’t believe in God. Heck, Christianity is offensive to a lot of people who do believe in God. Christianity is even offensive to a lot of Christians. Examples: Rick Warren, Rob Bell. ‘Nuff said.

Let us keep in mind here the ultimate goal: God’s glory being revealed. We’ve talked about suffering for Christ’s sake, but the end to that is seeing His glory and being able to partake in that. How awesome is that going to be? When we finally get to the end of this life, battered and bruised for the sake of the gospel, just think of being able to rejoice with the Lord about all the glory that was revealed through the beatings we took. Kinda lightens the blow. I mean, obviously, it’s not going to be fun if someone shoots an arrow at your knee because you say you love Jesus, but what about the people who watch that incident? They’re gonna be all like, “Wow, Jesus must be pretty rad if that person is willing to take an arrow to the knee for Him!” (Oh yeah, internet, I went there.) And when this life is done, we will be able to see the impact that our actions had on others. We are God’s chosen generation. This is our job. This is what we do.

Fact of Life: Pouring liquid into a glass tends to be much more successful if the glass is right side up.

Fact of Life 2: Listening to Break of Reality while writing makes whatever it is that you’re writing seem completely epic and amazing.

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Merry Christmas :)

Merry Christmas!

Seriously, this is probably my favorite time of the year. There’s so many things that are totally awesome about this time of year. Food, presents, family, friends, food, shopping, food, lights…did I mention food? Oh, and…I don’t know…IT’S JESUS’ BIRTHDAY!!! Ok, so maybe it’s not really His actual birthdate, but it’s when we celebrate it. Anyways, it seems like Jesus’ birthday gets lost with all the other stuff we do during the holiday season.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

-Luke 2:7 ESV

Jesus’ birth got lost among other “stuff” at the time as well. Notice, there wasn’t any room for Him at an inn, so He went where there was room. Same thing applies today. Jesus isn’t going to barge in and demand people make room for Him. He’ll just go the the next place, and wait for an open door.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

-Revelation 3:20 ESV

He’ll come to anyone who hears His voice. He didn’t mind that He had to be born in a dirty stable, in fact He planned it that way. In the same vein, He doesn’t care what your heart looks like prior to opening the door, He just wants to be let in.

Is there room in your inn?

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I have just been slapped in the face. Listen to what Jesus had to say here:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

John 5:39-40

Jesus was talking to the Pharisees here, telling them that they were complete hypocrites. They were hypocrites because though they looked to the Scriptures, they refused to look to Jesus. I thought to myself, “Goodness gracious, that’s me!” I don’t know about you, but I know that I am far too often guilty of looking for life in the Scriptures, instead of going straight to the source. Jesus was upset at the Pharisees for this very shortcoming. They were so wrapped up in searching the Scriptures and obtaining knowledge that they missed the point completely.

You see, the Pharisees loved the Scripture. In fact, they started out very well as far as that is concerned. They formed as a group of priests and rabbis who were sick of Jews who didn’t follow the Law. They interpreted the Scriptures literally, and in general had very solid doctrine. They opposed the liberal Sadducees, as well as extremist groups on the far right. You might compare their beginnings to the Calvary Chapel movement. I’m taking some liberties there, I know, but the similarities are undeniable. Over time, however, they began to place a higher importance on God’s word than on God Himself. Dangerous decision.

If you look back at the above quote, you’ll see that Jesus doesn’t necessarily have a problem with the Pharisees searching the Scriptures. In fact, he admits that the Scriptures bear witness of Him. His problem is that they think that they have eternal life in the Scriptures. This is a huge problem. Only Jesus is capable of giving eternal life. Yes, he reveals Himself to us through His Word, but the Bible is meant to point us to Jesus. It is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

John 4:13-14

I think that sometimes Christians (especially in the circles I frequent) tend to focus more on the Bible than on Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible is great. It is God’s living word. The problem is that often we’d rather spend time in the Bible than spend time with Jesus. We have an issue, and instead of going to Jesus we go to the Bible. Do you see the problem here?

Here’s the root issue: the Pharisees didn’t want to see Jesus as who He was. It was too uncomfortable. He even told them that if He were anyone else, they would surely believe His words. Yet because of Who He was, they refused to believe in Him. We have the same issue. It is often more convenient, more comfortable to put our faith in something tangible. We can pick up our Bibles, open them up, see them with our eyes. But that’s not really faith, is it? No, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Look at the countless believers in persecuted nations who have little or no access to the Bible. What do they have faith in? Jesus Christ.

Again, I’m not advocating that we all stop reading our Bibles, I’m just saying that we need to rethink our priorities. Jesus had harsh words for those Pharisees, I pray that we would stop being like them. All too often we worship the Bible instead of worshipping God. Granted, it’s much more comfortable to worship that which is tangible, but God never called us to be comfortable, did He?

I didn’t think so.

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Happy Holidays!

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Time for mad dashes through shopping malls, kamikaze runs through Wal-Mart and Kohls, and “last-minute stops” at Best Buy that see you planted firmly at the rear of a three-hour line. Best of all, it’s time to greet EVERYBODY you see with a nice, happy “Happy Holidays!!!”.

Or maybe not. This is not about gifts and decorating and cookies and pie (although cookies and pie are a big deal), it’s about remembering the birth of Christ. Christmas should be a reverent time of year, not a crazy, rushed season of stress. We’re celebrating what ranks as one of the top two or three most important days in the history of the universe.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

And that’s what it’s all about, folks. A child was born two thousand years ago who changed the face of this planet. He broke the iron rule of sin and death, and replaced it with grace. He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we could become His righteousness. And it all started about two thousand years ago, Christmas morning. Ignore the historical inaccuracies in that last sentence, I’m in a happy place here…moving on!

Anyways, it seems like everybody finds a reason to be upset at somebody else this time of year. Whether it’s a Christian getting mat at someone for saying “happy holidays”, a liberal getting mad at a Christian for saying “merry Christmas”, or a shopper in line getting mad at the ATM for saying “insufficient funds”, we all seem to be mad. This is the real “War on Christmas”.

Let’s face it, Satan does NOT like Christmas, and he’s going to do all he can to ruin it. Except he’s a whole bunch more effective than the Grinch ever was. The thing is though, he could care less whether we say “Christmas” or “the holidays”, as long as we’re not focusing on Christ. So instead of focusing on the rampant commercialism or humanist conspiracies that plague this wonderful, reverent time of year, focus on Christ. Do that, and you’ve won the war, because Christ has won the war.

Oh, and merry Christmas. 🙂

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