Ringing Moments - Importance of Role

"And now," said the wizard, turning back to Frodo, "the decision lies with you. But I will always help you." -Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring

There's a scene similar to that of Galadriel's, involving Gandalf that also caught my attention while I was reading. Frodo had just offered Gandalf the ring to take and Gandalf seems to almost reel back in horror at the thought. He refuses along similar lines of Galadriel, but with subtle differences that I think bear witnessing. He shows no temptation whatsoever for one, and he makes special mention to help Frodo with the burden for another. There's some back story that will help to show why this is so important that I think we can learn from as followers of Christ.

Gandalf, centuries earlier, had been sent to earth with a very specific purpose: to find those and gather those willing to resist the Evil One. He was not allowed to use force to do so, only guidance and counsel. Gandalf was one of five beings to be sent and, as the story finishes, we find out he was the only one to fulfill this charge. The others either became corrupt, lost interest, or refocused on other things. Enter...this scene.

Gandalf seemingly has the option to reach his goal by using the Ring to either strengthen the wills of those around him or make up for the weakness of those around him. By his reaction, he seems to have thought about it and reached his conclusion, making his decision to resist an easier one to make when it finally came. Use of the Ring did not fit in with his charge or his manner. A role was given to him with limitations and a purpose. He was one of five to see it to it's end untainted. Followers of Christ have it no different.

We have a role, a calling, a purpose with set limitations and a goal. It's not uncommon for us to find shortcuts we can take by skirting around our set limitations, or focusing on the ends more than the means. The man who struggles with alcohol and has decided to abstain is invited by a non-believer to go grab a beer with him to talk. So much easier to just grab that one beer than to order water or suggest a different environment and admitting your weakness. Our calling to be a light to the world can be made such a higher priority than we make it. And if the decision is made now to do that, our future forks in the road will be made so much clearer.

"But I will always help you."

After the resistance was made, he continues to play the role he was sent for. Seeing the big picture, he knows this was not going to be the only block in the path, but one of many.

I wonder how often we have our victories and then stop fighting, mistaking the battle for the war.


Night then Day - 5.02.10 0820

I'm reading Boman and Genesis 1 this morning and it got me thinking about how we view day and night versus how the ancient Hebrews might have.

For us, the future lies before us, the past behind. Our day starts with the rising sun and when we get out of bed, ready to start a new day - the one that lies in front of us ready to be explored. Day and night designate time periods only, further broken up by hours, minutes and seconds. We're used to looking at it objectively, from the outside, something to be observed and recorded.

The day gradually wanes into night, activity winds down, and once the day has been sufficiently explored we rest, ready to take on a brand new day tomorrow. We focus on what opportunities God might bring us in the day to come, always orienting our sights forward at the "freshness of the new" and "yet to be" that God might bring.

We may take the time to reflect on what God brought that day and thank him for it, hoping that tomorrow we might better recognize his activity in our lives. We might be blind to what the future holds, but it doesn't keep us from peering anyway, maybe even squinting to see a bit more clearly, anticipating the events that might unfold.

A different, but not opposing or a negating, view would be the Hebrew. Their perspective of a day was a bit more subjective, not something to be observed from the outside but something to experience from the inside. Days started with the evening. How peculiar. Their view of light and darkness started with the concept that they represented good and evil, known as a qualitative perspective. Light & Dark, not the sun & moon, is what separated day and night and it is significant to me that in creation God began by seeing light (goodness) as being good and so separating it from darkness (evil) before creating the sun and moon. Light was a gift from God designating his mercy and love, and the sun and moon were given the authority to govern that light during the day and night.

Just as out of chaos and void God brought order to creation, each day starts with darkness and God brings the light from it; he brings salvation from destruction, good from evil, mercy and warmth from cold and darkness. This, combined with Hebrew's time orientation as seeing the past before them laid out in detail with the future behind them and unknown, makes me wonder if they tended to focus not on what God might do for them in the future, but what God has already done for them in the past.

Each day may have been a reminder that he has already brought the day from the night for you, already given you mercy and compassion. The Old Testament seems to focus more on what God had done for the people (deliverance from Egypt, deliverance from exile, etc.) than on what he might do for them (although it certainly does that too).

There also seems to be a focus on using the past events as the primary way to seeing his activity in the future or as showing what God's character is. With this in mind, it is not hard to see why they had unwavering expectations of deliverance from misfortunes. During Egyptian slavery, foreign occupation, exile, etc. there was always the understanding that if they were faithful God would save and deliver, reaching the climax in the Christ event, because that is what the past has shown God to do.

Every time the prophets or Moses or a biblical character pleads with God, they almost always brought past actions into play, reminding him and themselves that that was God's nature, even at times referring to the sun/moon as signs of his goodness and mercy. This is also why depravity of light was seen as an apocalyptic tragedy, because it was a sign of God removing his favor.

I wonder if we would have an easier time recognizing what God does for us in the present if we started each day not focusing on what he might do, but on what he has already done. We might start the day feeling blessed instead of hoping to be blessed.

And I wonder how differently we might live our lives because of it.


Ringing Moments - Limbo of Victory

"Frodo, neither the Voice nor the Eye: free to choose, and with one remaining instant to do so. He took the Ring off his finger." -Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

The struggle. Daily, even minute by minute at times. So accurately described in so many places, and yet no easier to deal with each time.

We are neither the Voice nor the Eye, the Holy Spirit nor the Spirit of Evil. We are the agent in the middle, free to choose and at times with only an instant to do so.

"But i see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind..."

Freed from the bondage of sin, and yet not yet given our new bodies, we find ourselves in limbo, struggling to listen to the Voice of God and constantly aware of being under the ever watchful Eye of the Accuser. This classic struggle of good versus evil is masterfully rendered by Tolkien with Frodo fighting to take off the Ring before he is found and over taken by the Enemy.

"Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me..."

But we have a hope. We know our sins no longer condemn us, for there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. We know that there is an ever present second chance for the prodigal children, that our mistake of not taking the Ring off in time is never the final word. Paul's parallel to this scene in Romans 7:15-25 ends with this ringing declaration of victory, "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Thanks be to God indeed, that our struggle is not in vain and that we have more than the Voice to help, but also the strength of God and the freedom of Christ to see us persevere until the end.

Active God Perspective - 6.16.10 1055

Genesis 1:2b has recently become a very fascinating verse to me of the Hebrew perspective of God. Using parallelism, it says something truly interesting about God and how they viewed him, especially in comparison of "darkness." Boman says that the Hebrews saw inactivity basically as evil or non-existence and that they saw a positiveness to the dynamic activity of God in the world. He says they didn't really have a word for non-movement, such as "standing" or "sitting" or "resting," but that there was always something dynamic suggested in the word, like "standing up" or "sitting down" or "resting from." If he's right, then Gen 1:2b is really interesting.

Darkness was over the face of the "deep"
Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the "water"

The changes in the parallelism is a Hebrew way of refining or further defining the idea of what they're trying to say, or further contrasting the two subjects to better see their qualities. The writer did not say that the "Spirit of God was over the face of the deep" because, I believe, the writer could not, based on his dynamic worldview. To suggest that God was inactively above the abyss/deep would say that God was almost doing something evil by (a) not being active and (b) just watching chaotic, destructive waters (which is what the abyss/deep is always seen as in Hebrew writings/poetry). Instead, to clarify God's character, he adds an active word (hovering/nurturing - in the same way a hen hovers/nurtures her offspring under her wing) and changes the "evil/abyss" in calm, life supporting "water," almost as if to say that God was actively involved in taming the destructive chaos and his presence tames it into something useful.

What a powerful image and what a deep commitment to God's character. It makes me wonder about how I describe God's character and what I might be missing/adding when I do.


Fruits are Natural - 8.12.09 1400

Reading Galatians today was interesting. Paul spent so much time stressing to them that living by the Law made no sense to the Christ follower because that was what Christ rescued you from. Living by a ridged set of standards that didn't flex was what screwed us up in the first place. But in the same book he went from saying don't live by a pre-made right/wrong list to here's your new right/wrong list, the Christian standard.


That was confusing.

Wouldn't the Christian standard be the same thing as another Law? That was something Stephen said when I brought it up to him. I thought it was an excellent way to phrase it because that is how it is viewed. It took me some time to figure out what Paul was trying to say, but I think good discussion with my wife and Stephen helped flesh it out. I think he was talking about motivation.

When talking about the Law in the first half of the epistle, the image was why are you living like that? Is that going to cause your acceptance before God? What is Christ for then? Doing something because you feel you have to shouldn't be the reason. The last part of Galatians spelled out a believer's lifestyle in a different way. They were called "fruits," i.e. what do you do. What deeds naturally come from you as a believer.

The motivation now becomes letting the Spirit in you act and do what's right, not forcing yourself to do the right thing. That is what shows the nature you have. And Paul says those fruits are obvious! Meaning you know what they are, you don't need to be taught to do good, have joy, use self-control, etc. And just as obvious are the bad fruits! Doing good is natural now because you are a new creation! The sinful nature is dead, live as a slave to Christ. And when you don't do good it's not because you have regained your sinful nature (I don't think anyway...more research required), but because you didn't listen to your new nature born of Christ. Working out your salvation, as Paul says, I think just means getting used to being a new creation.

And one of my favorite illustrations of all time is just as useful for this as for so many things. The circle with the dot in the middle. God is the dot. The circle is the line you don't want to cross. You should always be trying to get closer to the dot, not the line.

If your focus is on the line (how far can I go before i piss God off or before I'm not doing what's right), then you are either living by the Law ("I'm in the circle here and out of the circle here") or you're not living in the Spirit or you haven't accepted the gift, because you're trying to earn it by eying the line and staying inside. Instead, keep your eye on the dot/God/Christ and realize that:

when you accept the gift, the line is erased.

You can't cross back over unless you tell God that you just don't want any part of this line-less world of his and would rather live in a world where you can be better than someone else and be rewarded right now for playing the game of life right with your "good deeds." Because that is life without a relationship with God. Trying to impress others and getting your value from them rather than him. The fruits of those "good deeds" are also obvious.

Perfectly Imperfect Paradox - 8.12.09 1345

The Christian life became so much easier when the nature of salvation became real to me. And it was simple. I was trying to be perfect. I would stress when I failed and would rejoice when I felt I was on track. Instead of letting God take control, I would try to do what's right or figure out the right path without God, to show him I was trying to be the best Christian ever! But being a follower of Christ means not stressing about every action. Just live! God grows the seed. God causes maturity. All you've got to do it respond to his guidance and let him work! Mistakes come and go, but you're still loved and accepted so learn and move on. Pray and read your bible because it keeps your focus right and lets God talk to your heart. That is living by the Spirit. Not going through life with your version of the 10 Commandments to help every decision. God (speaker of the 10 commandments) already lives in you, so let him conform you like he promised and stop trying to do his job.

Ringing Moments - Galadriel's Test

"I passes the test," she said. "I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel."
-Galadriel, The Fellowship of the Ring

Galadriel's testing has always struck me as a stroke of moral genius on the part of Tolkien. To me, it is one of the priceless gem moments in the story of the Lord of the Rings, because it is an example of choosing what's right over what's wanted.

Anyone who has read the trilogy at one point or another wonders, why Frodo? Wouldn't Gandalf, Galadriel, or some other powerful being stand a better chance of success? And Tolkien masterfully answers the question, no. They are too powerful. And what's more, they know it. There is a humbling factor involved when you face your heart's desire and realize that, despite the want and need, you have to let the opportunity pass for the good of those around you.

Galadriel is a powerful character who refuses Frodo's offer of caring for the Ring because, while she would use it at first for everyone's good, it would eventually corrupt her and through her do much evil, much more than it could do through Frodo. In light of this wisdom and foresight, she chooses the way of righteousness over the way of power, and she is rewarded. Though at the time of the decision she didn't know it, she was granted access to the Undying Lands again from which she had been exiled from, the land that her kind desires to return to deep in their hearts.

This adds another variable to the scene. The very nature of her people yearns to return to those lands. As an exile, that craving had to forever go unfulfilled and, for her, it had almost been replaced by the desire for the Ring of Power. What a wonderful reward. By denying the temptation of the Ring, an even deeper and more fulfilling desire was granted to her.

How often do I go after the desires of my heart when, by simple (or not so simple) denial, I might be granted something more? How often are decisions and opportunities denied me because God, knowing my heart, knows that it is a temptation I would not pass. When we're not getting what we want or the road is not leading us in the direction we thought, at some point we have to trust in God that he is looking after us and those around us. There are times when we simply don't possess the wisdom and foresight of Galadriel and we simply don't get the opportunity to reject the Ring of Power, because we wouldn't have.

If this is a disturbing thought, that God might not be allowing us to make our own decisions in every aspect of our lives, there is something to be recognized. God's ultimate goal is for the world and mankind, not just you. What we need to do is make sure we're taking advantage of the moments, the countless moments, to further that goal because one way or another it will be accomplished...with or without you.


Heavenly Rewards - 8.12.09 1305

I was looking up all the references the New Testament makes on "rewards" and "treasures" based on a discussion Stephen and I had this morning, which was based off a concept Brennan had said in his book. Are you given rewards in heaven based on your good deeds on earth? Will some have mansions and others have shacks, some big, bejeweled crowns and others small piddly ones?

It just struck me as odd that the whole point seemed to be you can't earn salvation you just accept it because no one is better than someone else, but in heaven there would be a sort of caste system of who got more honor than someone else. And what would the nature of the rewards be? Treasures, gold, honor, more of God's attention and love than someone else? I don't think anyone really believes that you'll have a nicer dwelling or more spending money, but when Christ talks about building and storing treasures in heaven, what is he getting at?

I'm not thinking it has anything to do with levels of salvation for sure! What, more salvation than that guy or being more accepted than that guy? That's salvation based on deeds & works. And it doesn't make sense, to be "more accepted." So, what do the scriptures mean talking about treasures and rewards?

As far as I can tell from each verse talking about believers and rewards, it's talking about one of two things. The obvious one would be treasure singular, i.e. the ultimate treasure of salvation. And not by earning it, but by living the life of gratitude for the gift of salvation you received. Like the fruits thing, knowing what side someone is on by their fruits. Or receiving the treasure, as in you're supposed to sell everything to buy the land the treasure is buried in - complete devotion and commitment. Also, as in when you live as you should, you're showing the treasure you already have.

The other times the message isn't building/storing treasures like every feeding the poor good act gives you one more shilling in your heavenly pile, but the focus of the passages is more why are you feeding the poor? Where is the motivation coming from? Where is the treasure of your heart? The focus is on, are you trying to please God or man.

I don't think "pleasing God" is the same as "earning rewards." Where it says "treasures" it's talking about the source of motivation. Pleasing God with your life is expected of you. It is how you show gratitude for your salvation. And it's not something forced. When you receive the Holy Spirit, you let the Spirit move you (live by the Spirit). If you understood what the cost was and what the sacrifice was to allow the gift to be possible, you naturally show devotion to God through your acts. In other words, you might say that your fruits show the type of tree that you are.

All this seems to mean that heaven is a community of equals. No, not equal with God, but equal with each other. Mother Teresa won't get all the front row seats to the angelic choirs in heaven, and I'm positive she wasn't motivated by that thought either. She was acting in gratitude, trying to show God how much she appreciated the sacrifice. By our standards, she should be rewarded, because we're used to a rewards based system of living. But is that how God sees it? Based on the New Testament writings, I'm not sure he does. I think he'll be more pleased with someone who shows gratitude like that, but there's also a sense of that's what you're suppose to be doing. Mother Teresa did what she was expected to do.

Am I?

Faith - 4.30.09 0955 (Part 3)

What really amazes me about the word faith is how much it encompasses! It's not just trust or belief, which are two different things that become one in the word "faith." It also brings in "loyalty." And this is the shade that more often than not becomes dominant when it's used of God (i.e. his faithfulness). The Hebrews 11 definition isn't exhaustive because, if you apply that definition to God, it doesn't make sense (does he hope for something he can't see?) and it doesn't really tie in the loyalty factor as strongly as when the word is used in the bible to describe faithfulness to something. So "faith" not only seems to blend in concepts of trust and belief in something, but also a commitment to what you trust and believe in. Loyalty.

What still bothers me though is that when it's used of God, there has to be some kind of trust or belief tied into it, otherwise they would just say God's loyalty, right? What belief or trust is God loyal to? Himself? He's committed to trusting himself? To believing in himself? I'm still fleshing it out, but either all three concepts of "faith" are still tied together in "faithfulness," or it could be that faith and faithfulness just overlap in the area of commitment/loyalty; that when you speak of "faithfulness" you are just bringing in the concept of loyalty/commitment and pushing aside the trust/belief, making loyalty, commitment, and faithfulness complete synonyms, 100% interchangeable.

Faith - 4.30.09 0955 (Part 2)

Faith does not come from us. It doesn't originate from us. It's not initiated by us. The bible seems to make this clear. Does this mean we can't have faith without God flipping a switch in us? Kind of, but not really.

See, if God had no part in our faith then we could boast in ourselves and our faith in God. We could say, "I believed in God without any help at all!" This isn't biblical. But I also don't believe this means that God directly causes some to have faith and some not to have faith. What would be the point of Paul's argument in Romans that no one has an excuse not to have faith in God when, in fact, they do have an excuse. God never gave them the faith to have! Simply doesn't make sense, and I think this is because we've misunderstood something about faith.

Faith is always the second step from something else.

Faith is always the response to something or the reaction to something. Faith isn't initiated because "initiation" or "starting out" or "the first step" isn't what faith is. It's not even a part of faith! Saying you've initiated faith in God is as nonsensical as saying the color green tastes like wood. But if it's a response, a reaction to something, then things become clearer once you figure out what it's a response to, a reaction to.

God's revelation.

Revelation can be initiated, and in fact is when it comes to God revealing himself. Now no man can have an excuse, because God has revealed himself to all, either through nature, the Law, Christ, etc. Your response to that revelation is the all determining factor. That is why God can hold everyone accountable, because we're all responsible for the way we respond to God's revelation. This is why we can't brag about our faith in God, because without God's revelation, we wouldn't be able to have the appropriate, faithful response! God doesn't choose your response for you. He determined whether or not you had the option to respond. And everyone before, during, and after the Christ event had the option, has the option, will have the option.

People before the Christ event had proper/effective/real faithful responses. If you read Hebrews 11, the hall of fame for the faithful, you will see that every one of them is a response. And some of them are even said to have been justified or made righteous by their response! So this concept of justification by faith is not new to the Christ event.

What, then, did Jesus bring that wasn't there before? Forgiveness? Nope. people could be forgiven before Christ. Righteousness for the believers? Nope. That happened before. Justification, Holy Spirit, recognition of God's supremacy, mercy or love? Nope nope nope, all there before the Christ event. People were able to be justified, people got the Holy Spirit, and people fully recognized God's attributes. What new thing did Christ bring?


Eternal Life.

Being able to spend infinity with God.

Before Christ, righteousness or justification or forgiveness didn't mean salvation or fully restored relationship with God, allowing eternal life. These were brand new concepts that Christ brought!


Faith - 4.30.09 0955 (Part 1)

There really is so much tied into the word "faith" that I'm not sure where to begin. Something about it that I think is important to distinguish though is that, in the bible, faith is distinct and separate from works. It is not an action. It may be an "action word" in how we define things like verbs and what-have-you, but it is not in and of itself an action. What the bible does say about faith, however, is that it causes action. It prompts action. It drives action. And what you put your faith in (money, self, God) will motivate certain types of action. I think this is why in one epistle it can be said that salvation is not attained by works but by faith while in another epistle faith in God can be described as dead without works.

Salvation can be attained by faith in God, and certain works are evidence of the type of faith you have. Baptism (a work) doesn't bring you salvation in and of itself, but it is an action motivated by your faith in God, which does bring you salvation. For me, this answers the question, "what if you're on your way to being baptized and you die in a car accident?" You're still saved! You were taking an action motivated by your saving-faith in God. The faith saved you, not the baptism. But someone who says they have faith in God but keeps pushing baptism off might not be, to my understanding, saved. For whatever reason, they are resisting the full commitment to being a part of God's people, and the way a bible describes the "lukewarm" is not exactly positive.

Your faith in God is made evident by your fruits, your actions, your works. But that doesn't make faith and action the same, anymore than a red ball can be used as evidence that "red" and "ball" are the same. One describes the other. One tells the type of the other. "Ball" gives shape to the "red," just as your "works" will give shape to the type of "faith" that you have.

I think that, because of this, what someone puts their faith in (again: money, self, God, etc.) is the most important thing about a person, because it will determine your life and it's outcome. And of all the things you can put your faith in, there is only one that not only gives you eternal life, but also makes your life on earth worth living. God brings something that self, money or material things simply can't provide.

Salvation - 4.29.09 1045 (Part 4)

Can you lose it? Can you toss the gift aside? I think you can. Not by merely messing up or making mistakes, but by simple apostasy. Abandonment. Saying you no longer want to be a part of God's people. Some ask that if you were able to cast aside such a wonderful gift, did you really accept it in the first place? Only God knows. The results are the same whether you had it and gave it up or whether you never had it in the first place. But it would be a weird thing if God respected free-will and allows us to choose to be part of the covenant and then, once accepted, to take away your free-will to reject or throw away your gift. I think the status of being forgiven of all sins is dependent on having a relationship with God. No relationship? No forgiveness.

Salvation - 4.29.09 1045 (part 3)

But what is salvation anyway? This is what i can gather so far. It is a restored relationship with God. What was broken before is now fixed. There is a big emphasis on the fact that something that was once dead has been revived, resurrected, brought back to life. Because it has been restored, God also dwells in you. We have a fuller and a more untainted access to his guidance and influence and discernment. You have eternal life that is sustained by God, not inherent in yourself. God is the life-giver. Salvation also means freedom from bondage/slavery to sin. We are no longer obligated to follow those desires. When we do, it's because we let it, where as before, without God's restored indwelling, we were obligated to follow it. With salvation comes God's righteousness. But salvation and righteousness are distinct from each other. There were righteous people before Christ's coming, but there weren't saved people.

One of the most interesting parts about salvation is how it's talked about in the New Testament; it's timeless. It is a past, completed action. "I was saved three years ago." But it's also a continuous action in the present. "I am being saved" or "I'm in the process of being renewed." There's this whole idea surrounding salvation that we are to "work it out" and that we are being "conformed to his image." These are actions happening right now that are in motion towards a goal; Christlikeness. And then there is the future hope of salvation, this idea that it hasn't happened yet - at least not in all it's fullness - but that it will. In fact, it is a "sure hope," in the sense that we can have absolute confidence in it's completion. Salvation has a much more, well, Hebraic sense to it where it's not spoken of completely in a "past/present/future" tense, but a timeless understanding of whether it's a completed or "perfect" tense (in grammar-like terms). That's why Paul, who is fundamentally Hebrew in his thinking, can talk about it as a finished action, whether he's referring to it in past, present or future. It has happened, is happening, and most assuredly will completely happen without fail.

Salvation - 4.29.09 1045 (Part 2)

Salvation is a gift, 100% from God and of God. Nothing about us or from us causes, earns, draws out of God, obligates it. You can live a wonderful life, love God, give to the poor, etc. but you don't get salvation because of it. If you did, it would, again, be about works. Salvation is not given to just those types because then it would not be available to all. Prostitutes. Druggies. Alcoholics. They wouldn't have access to it. That is the beautiful thing about it. It is Free. Free in the sense that you don't get it by exchanging something for it. "I'll give you good deeds, my first born, my tithes, my time, in exchange for eternal life." But it is not free in the sense of unconditional.

This may seem like semantics, but it's an important distinction that some get confused. IT IS CONDITIONAL. You get it by faith. That is why everyone has access to it! Anyone can put their faith in God. Not everyone can live a drug free life (on their own) or get rid of habits to live a perfect life (on their own). In fact, no one can. That's one of the points of Christ's ministry and Paul's Roman epistle! But everyone has been given a chance to trust/believe/be loyal to God. You have your whole life to do it. And when you have faith in God, God is still not obligated to give you salvation. But He chooses to! That is why it remains 100% from God, 100% gift. He has made the gift available by faith. We didn't make the conditions, but God has made conditions. You have to accept the gift through faith. "Free" and "unconditional" are two very different things. If salvation were unconditional, everyone would have it. But since it's free and conditional, everyone can have it, because everyone can meet the God ordained conditions. Question is, do you want to?


Salvation - 4.29.09 1045 (Part 1)

Salvation is such a hard thing to wrap my head around, and I think it is for a lot of people. I think if it was really understood what kind of salvation Christ brought & God gave, we would all act a little more like we were intended to. We accept the concept that we are saved by grace not by works, but we live like we are still held accountable to our sins. "There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus." Saints are not judged, we are rewarded! From the moment of accepting Christ we begin building treasures in heaven, but there's nothing I've come across yet that says God also takes away treasures in heaven as you do bad things. What it talks about instead is wasting the moments given to you. You've been entrusted with talents and he expects you to be good stewards. I might be mixing metaphors though, because the guy who did nothing with his talents was definitely condemned. But when you compare the rest of the New Testament with that image, it almost makes sense, because salvation and being saved is supposed to prompt a certain action and way of living. If it hasn't, then are you saved? And if you're not saved, then it wasn't your actions that denied your salvation (because then salvation would be about works), but it was that you probably never accepted it in your heart in the first place. John's epistles and Hebrews, at least, talk about something to that effect.

That's what I mean about if you really understood what the salvation that is offered was all about, you'd live differently! Not one who is afraid of losing it with every mistake, stray thought, of victory of the "flesh," and not one who is being held back by burdens of "not being good enough" or guilt baggage. You are accepted! You're in heaven! You're in a relationship with God! Get over yourself and just keep moving forward, keep looking for the next positive impact you can make and don't lose momentum on the mess-ups you're making along the way. Because if you do that, your mess-ups will get fewer, your barriers smaller, and your perspective more Godly.

Spirit and Body Undivided - 1.30.09 ????

I was reading One Month to Live "Day 4" and it was talking about how we are spiritual beings. So, in order to be healthy, start with focusing on spiritual health before anything else. I've heard C.S. Lewis talk along the same lines, that we are a soul and have a body. I really like the focus that we don't have a soul, we are a soul, but I'm not convinced this is totally accurate. I think it's more that we are a soul and we are a body. We were created as a unit, the only ones created that way. God made spiritual beings (angels, etc.) and physical beings (animals, trees, etc.) but we're hybrids. We're the only ones with both. Yes, if you're not spiritually healthy than that affects your physical side but it's vice versa too! If you're doing drugs, being lazy, not eating right or any number of things that wear your body down, I think it affects you spiritually too. Like a two-way street. Keeping up physically will help you stay spiritually healthy and, again, vice versa. Kinda neat how unique he made us! Like a machine that needs maintenance on a lot of different levels to function efficiently.

Bread? Alone - 1.20.09 1223

One of the first verses I ever memorized was the "man does not live on bread alone" one in Dt. Because it was short and Jesus used it, so I thought it would be a good one to know. Recently I was reading a book on Hebrew thought that brought a whole new light on the verse. Hebrews tied words with deeds so closely that to say something implied the action would happen, regardless. The "words from God's mouth" weren't just referring to scriptures, but his commands on how to live and the actions he's taken in our lives. We don't live on "bread alone," i.e. by sustaining our bodies cravings and needs. Man lives on bread in combination with living a certain way (Godly way) and living on God's activity in your life. One is as essential as the other. Overtones of the Christ event and Christianity can't help but be noticed, especially when looking at the concept of "eternal life" that Jesus brought with his teaching & ministry. And it's an awesome way to show that the Old Testament is still very critical to Christianity. Things like Dt. are common things that have been taught since the beginning of God's people.

Blessed Mistakes - 1.18.09 1100

"Men will always be making mistakes as long as they are striving after something." -Goethe

Well that's a refreshing thought. Encouraging too. Knowing that if I'm not making any mistakes it's not because I know or do everything perfectly, it's because I'm not pushing myself. To be better, to do better, to move forward in life or my goals. If I'm stumbling, then it shows that I'm at least walking, right?

It goes for humanity too, on a larger scale with bigger consequences. We may have polluted the air with our progress and technology, but we were striving to make life easier and possible a better place to live. And now that we know about the mistakes we made, we're slowly trying to correct it and turn around our habits we've acquired. I've made mistakes trying to be better, and with Christ I'm struggling to turn around. I may never make it, but it won't keep me from trying, so that i can prove to myself I'm committed to the Cause of Christ. Which, oddly, in return, gives me the strength and confidence to keep going and keep asking God in my life to help.

God's Agents - 1.17.09 1245

God seems to work primarily in our lives through people. When he warned the nation of Israel he spoke through prophets rather than a booming voice from above. A lot of his communication to King David was through the leading prophets of the time. Why does he do it like that?

I think it's so that we still have a choice to follow or not. Hard to deny booming voices from the sky and he doesn't want to control our lives by force, so he speaks to us through avenues that we can deny if we want. Like Elisha (or Elijah?) in the mountain cleft. The "still small whisper" rather than the earthquakes and fires. Easy to say "just the wind."

And if God is trying to talk to me through others as well as through my soul, is he trying to use me to speak to others? Is he trying to use me as a prophet to bring comfort or guidance? More importantly, can he use me? I think it's in Ezekiel where God says he searched far and wide for someone to use and found no one. I'm afraid of times when maybe he was looking and I wasn't open enough to be used. So I need to listen to those around me who might be being used, but also remain open to being used myself.

The Importance of Self - 1.15.09 0655

"Gentleness with ourselves constitutes the core of our gentleness with others." -Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning

There can be a danger in focusing too much on others and not enough on ourselves. I hadn't thought much about the degree of harshness I put towards myself. Manning seems to think that the source of how we treat others comes from how we treat ourselves. Christ came to restore and save. Save mankind. Save our relationship with God. Save us. Even if we do have Christ, we inhibit his ability to function through us effectively when we're constantly degrading the value we have. God saw enough in me to draw me to him. Can I see that in myself? That's hard to do when certain disciplines just don't seem to come easily enough. When i want to gain control and I oscillate my desires to do so, it makes me wonder about where I'm at. But God knows it and he's always there to help me through it. Seventy times seven. Now it comes down to my will to continue getting back on the horse and fighting.