The Key To Paradise

I believe that one of the “hard” things of the Christian faith, is that if we are not careful things can become lost in translation. We can read the same things over and over in our bibles, without having what we read move us or change us. I’m no different, I struggle to pray as I should, and though my bible reading is disciplined. It can seem very robotic, as though I only do things out of “religious duty”

We all know the story when Christ is on the cross, with two people on each side of him. If you don’t know of it, I encourage you to read Luke 23:26-44. Again, I have read this passage quite a bit over the span of my faith journey, and it sadly doesn’t move me sometimes or nothing jumps out at me. The story kept coming to memory, so I opened my bible with the thought in my mind

“Okay Lord, what are you saying to me?”

As I was reading, it came to my attention that there were two different types of hearts: On one hand, there is the heart of stone, the first criminal almost has a mocking tone of voice and posture of heart. “Your Jesus right? So why not get yourself off this piece of wood and save us!?” (My translation). If I’m not careful, this can be me too, I can have a horrible attitude about my life and faith as well. In which case, I have to bring myself in Gods presence, seek forgiveness for my hard heart and allow him to soften my heart over again.

I love the words of Ezekiel 36:26:

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone[a] and give you a heart of flesh.

In my observation, this is what happens to the second man hanging beside Jesus, something happens inside of his own heart to invoke a different response. He says “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same condemnation ? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom .” And he (Jesus) said to him “Truly, I say to you. today you will be with me in paradise.”

Again, I’ve read this before, this really isn’t anything new to me per say, but what I noticed, is that there is so much going on between the second man and Jesus. I don’t know much at all about this mans life, his past or anything. But I think it’s safe to assume, that he knew deep down he made a mess of his life, wasn’t proud of himself at all and knew that there wasn’t much at all that he could do to merit the grace of God.

I believe that that is the best place a person can be, because when we are to proud, full of pride then there really is no way we can see the grace of God, can we? No we can’t. And our hearts cannot ever really soften, unless the spirit of God breaks through with a holy sledge hammer.

The way Christ responds to this man, completely blows my mind, Jesus doesn’t lead this man in a prayer, tells him to repent or anything of the sort. The man only cries out from his heart, which is in a way a form of repentance and asking for forgiveness. And Christ accepts him willfully. The man knows, that if he is to enter paradise with Christ, it has everything to do with the goodness of Christ and zero to do with himself.

This, my friends, should set us free! Why? Because it’s no longer about us, we know longer have to slave and white knuckle our way into Christs love. We can rest in the grace and mercy of Christ, and breath with great joy because it’s all about the finished work of Christ for us.

Trust me, if you feel like God is done with you, or wants nothing to do with you, you’re mistaken. He just wants you. All of you. While you are still alive, there is still time to know the grace and goodness of God. All you have to do is cry out to him.

The Thorn In My Side (Dealing With Anger)

I’m going to come out and say it, what haunts me the most is anger. It doesn’t take long for me to lose my mind, all the discipline and self-control go out the window. I hate it about myself, it makes me feel so ungodly and not mirroring Jesus Christ.

I hate the way anger makes me feel, it makes feel all the more frustrated that I’m angry in the first place. It makes me body feel like I’m going about my day, as though I am carrying around heavy amounts of weight on my body.

I try and close my eyes and take slow, deep breathes in an attempt to calm the storm inside me. I try and remember the peace and joy that is found in Christ. I try and remember that he has authority over the storms that surround us (Mark 4:35-41).

Jesus calm the storm inside me I pray under the breath, help me to act and love like you do. Even when people and circumstances annoy me, help me to know that you are Lord over everything in my life. Anger can very much be a two-edged sword, on one hand, it can be directed to fighting back against evil, with a holy anger.

The Lord, says that he is slow to anger, and abounding in faithful love and truth (Psalm 86:15). Note the word slow, the Lords anger is controlled and builds up over time. And to be sure, yes, the Lords anger will one day be poured out. But still, his anger is calculated and controlled. He simply doesn’t fly off the handle at a moments notice.

But I think there’s something to the reality, in which the Lord says  Vengeance is mine (Romans 12:9).  Why does he command this?  Because he doesn’t want anger to be the controlling factor of our lives. Again, the Bible doesn’t say to ever not be angry. For I just showed you that even God himself is slow to anger.

Moreover, scripture be angry and do not sin (Eph 4:26) how is that even possible? Again, this is where self-control and dependency on the Holy Spirit is crucial. Holy anger is being angry for a just cause, not the ill tempered person that lashes out and brings harm to others.

It is possible to be in control of oneself, when being overcome and frustration. For example, I might be annoyed with a person or person’s in a particular situation, but that doesn’t mean that I”m going to take out my anger on everyone involved. It takes extreme amount of discipline and the willingness to apply yourself to the process.

Some might argue that,  it’s just apart of some peoples genetic make up. But I’m not even willing to let them be used as an excuse. People can change. I certainly can change. It’s a matter of A) Admitting you have a problem B) making the steps needed to change C) Seeking forgiveness from God and others and D) laying aside every excuse that you have, as to why you can’t change. And actually believe that change is possible, because it is.

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Fighting My Addiction

keep-craving-in-checkAs a psychology major, one area of study that has caught my attention of the last few years is substance abuse. Also known as chemical dependency. Ironically enough, Christians have questioned why a biblically centered college has a program like this.

Shouldn’t it be obvious? Every single one of us is addicted to something, the question then lies in whether we know it to be true of ourselves and whether we are willing to admit it as well.

What’s my addiction then? Pornograpy, yes I am a Christian and I struggle daily against the temptation to view pornography. How hypocritical right? I’m not afraid to say so myself, the fact is no is consistent with how they live their lives all the time.

I am not proud of having this vice in my life, in any way. Yes I’m aware that sex is a gift. One to be enjoyed and even to be longed for. But in a certain context. The context of marriage with a real person. The research is very clear that pornography is extremely harmful to the brain

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/9-things-you-should-know-about-pornography-and-the-brain

The amount of shame, guilt and regret that has stemmed from this has almost been too much. God’s grace has been the only way that I have gotten through this. It hasn’t been easy, I’ve made it over 90 days without it in my life. However, I have recently relapsed back into the habit again.

It’s sucks and I feel horrible about it, but I’m not giving up the fight. And neither should you. I don’t care if you addicted to overeating, and you recently filled your stomach with so much food you couldn’t get out of bed the next day. Get back on the saddle.

The last thing we need to is to enter a cycle of self hatred and abuse. Know that you are forgiven and cleansed.

 

 

Looking at Jesus

The more I read trough the bible, the more convinced that Jesus is who he says he is. As CS Lewis Brilliantly wrote:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

For me, it is extremely difficult to read about his life, how he fearlessly loved people, how he performed miracles and he was strong like a lion. Growing up in a buddhist family, I was never drawn to the teaching of Buddha, they way I was to Christ.

Jesus takes failures and outcasts and re-writes their history with grace. He doesn’t allow them to stay as they are, but ignites their hearts to live for something greater. I know that around this time of year a lot of people like to present what they believe Jesus looked like, I mean, I tend to believe that he was more of the short haired person that resembled something like this:

jesus-christ

Though, I like to believe he had a much thicker beard and was a man that wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. The point I want to make with this, is that when we are faced with shame, guilt, despair, loneliness, rejection, regret and so many more avenues of human life. That when we face these elements of life, we must teach ourselves to look at the face of Jesus. Knowing that when we are in Christ, we are looking into the eyes of a God-man that doesn’t see us as we see ourselves. In fact, he see’s us a white as snow.

May we patiently teach ourselves to look into the saviors eyes, and there we will find our fullest worth and who we truly are.