The Love of a Savior

Photo credit unknown.

Photo credit unknown.

One of the tenets of Christianity setting apart from other world religions, is the love of a savior. Christianity alone has at its center a God who loves his creation enough to call them children and to die in their place in order to satisfy his wrath upon sin.

Jesus himself draws the stark contrast of this revolutionary approach to life when he comments that few people would die for a good man. What isnt said there, but what is certainly hinted at is that we are not good men. We are sinners. We live in a fallen world and we are bent towards sin. Knowing this, and loving us anyway, our God sacrifices himself to pay the penalty for our sins.

This act is so revolutionary, so extraordinary, so out of the box we as a humanity can scarcely grasp the full weight of what he did or why he did it. Paul writes in Romans, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. While we were still in opposition to him. He loved us enough to move towards us. To take the first step to have a relationship with us. Which is a second tenet separating Christianity from other world religions, God desires to know us personally. He doesn’t sit on a throne far above in the heavens looking down at us, waiting for us to screw up so he can capriciously punish us. Rather, he engages in our lives with us, walking alongside us each day. In fact, his desire is to dwell within us. To live in and through us. Paul also write in one of his letters to the church at Corinth, that as Christ followers we are temples to the Holy Spirit (God’s spirit he sent to dwell within us). In this particular passage, Paul was correcting the Corinthians on their sexual immorality, however the idea that our bodies are temples of the spirit of the almighty God should have broad applications in our lives. Our lives should be lived in such a way that God is glorified by our actions.

As we prepare for today and this weekend, ask ourselves this question: Is God glorified in the way I am living, in my habits and daily routine, in my work, in my attitude and in the way I treat others? If not, now seems like the right time to reorganize our priorities.

A Savior that knows…

Artwork by V-K-S

Artwork by V-K-S

Psalm 8:4 asks the question what is man, that you are mindful of him? Interestingly, as I read Hebrews 2 this morning I find the same question being asked. The Psalm reference is clearly messianic and the Hebrews reference supports this as it is found in a section describing how Jesus became like the creation in order to be in a position to perfectly offer us salvation. We needed a savior who had experienced everything it is to be human, while at the same time was able to keep himself unstained by the world… in other words sinless.

Philippians 2 tells us Christ emptied himself of some aspects of being God and became a human. He limited himself.

Why does a Savior who has experienced what we have experienced appeal to us? Why do we want a God we can relate to?

I think it is because we are community creatures. And this is an essential element founded in us by our creator. We are community creatures because our God and creator is a community. He is a triune God. Three distinct personalities comprising of one single God. An essential piece of being made in his likeness is the built-in desire to have community.

Misery loves company, but so does joy. Joy is much more potent or poignant when we share it with someone else. Love is difficult to accomplish alone, there has to be at least an object of love. I can attest from past experience being angry at myself is much less ‘rewarding’ than being angry at someone else. Our emotions require another person. They require community. This is how we were created. This is how God made us.

It is significant then, that he became like us before he died for us. It’s significant for several reasons. First, someone had to pay the penalty for our sins. It had to be someone who was human. Someone who had been asked to live within the confines of God’s law. Jesus was the expression of God’s willingness to allow himself to live within the confines of his creation. I don’t know that I can articulate the full ramifications of this played out, but God himself took on the form of a human and lived under the Law. Equally significant, is that he not only lived under the law, but he didn’t break the law. Jesus is the only human in history to have lived under the law and never broken any of it. Jesus lived a sinless life under the law. Of every human who has every lived on the planet in all of human history, he is the only one who was able to escape God’s righteous wrathful penalty for sin. Yet, he was the only who suffered that wrath. He took our place and stood in judgment instead of us. A third reason this is significant, is being a human living here on earth, he knows what it is to be us. He knows intimately the struggles of everyday life. He knows what to feels like be betrayed by a close friend. He knows what it feels like when friends die. To me John 11:35 is one of the most profound verse in all of scripture. We see Jesus having difficulty dealing with life on a specific day. He was overwhelmed by the circumstances of the day. He knows the hurt that comes with being lied to. He can feel the frustration that comes from the daily grind of doing the same thing over and over and over again. He knows what it is like to work hard, to sweat, to have a long day at work. Jesus knows every aspect of being human. He knows what it is like to walk in our shoes.

This makes it all the more sweet when he offers us rest, when he offers to carry our burden, and wants to take our yoke from us.

In a season of life where it feels like no one understands and the world is against us, there is comfort to be had in knowing we aren’t alone. Knowing God does know ho bad the hurt hurts. In my darkest hours, this has been the light in the darkness. This has been the only thing to comfort me at times. We read much later in Hebrews Jesus makes the statement, he will never leave us nor forsake us. Even in our darkest hours we aren’t alone.

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Savior, Rescuer and Protector

IMG_5728Yet another time where God coming to rescue me stands out amongst the verses of this psalm.
And why does he rescue me? Why does he save me? Because of his lovingkindness. Because of him. Because of who he is.
Not because of me.
I have nothing to do with it. He doesn’t save me because I deserve it. He doesn’t save me because I earned it.
He saves me because that’s who he is. He is savior. He is rescuer. He is redeemer.
The totality of the grand story of God entering human history as a baby who grew up as a man and ultimately died a criminal’s death on the cross, in my place for my sins I might add, can be fully understood by realizing God is love. He is the embodiment of love.
Everything he does is motivated by his love. Even his wrath. Even his judgment.
God rescues us because he loves us. He loves us more than we are able to fathom. Which, is pretty impressive because as a parent I love my kids a whole crap ton… but it doesn’t compare to how much God loves us.
Maybe it is just the message I need to hear in this season of my life or maybe it is pure coincidence. Either way, as I am reading the Psalms God’s prolific role as savior, rescuer and protector constantly pops up. I take great comfort from this, knowing the season of life my family is embarking is one where we will need to be reminded God is our savior, rescuer and protector.
Thank you LORD.
O LORD, rescue my soul; Save me because of Your lovingkindness.

He receives my prayers: some thoughts on Psalm 6:9

IMG_6135This brief and seemingly unobtrusive statement is nestled in among comments on feeling overwhelmed by both sin in my life and enemies outside of me. Despite everything login on, the storms swirling around and the madness that is life, God hears us. Despite the sin that easily entangles us and trips us up, despite our self-reliance and lack of trust in God as the author and creative of life, God still hears us. He is listening. More than merely listening, he receives our prayers. He hears them and takes them in. He hears them and cuddles them close to his heart. He receives them.
This is significant.
During the tough times of life, it feels as though we are all alone. It feel like there is no one who gets it. No one who can fathom the depths we are in. Not true. Our savior knows. Our savior wants to help. Our savior hears our prayers and receives them. He takes them in. He holds them so he is able to answer them. Like a father who listens intently to his children desiring the best for them, he holds our prayers and answers them in such a way that only he can.
Reminds me oc Christmas. Ronda (my wife) is a great Christmas gift giver. I suck. She listens intently all year long at the numerous things I say I want/need along the way and will strategically pick a few things out of the multitude so at the end of the year, I get an awesome gift I have been wanting. She hears my gifts ideas and receives them into her heart and mind and waits to give them to me when it is appropriate. God is the same way. He listens, he receives and he gives when it is appropriate.
I know, there is much to say about what has been called unanswered prayers. I would argue there is no such thing, just a prayer we didn’t get the answer we wanted. Maybe God said wait, maybe he said no. Those prayers are still unanswered, just not in the ways we wanted. But this feels like a topic for another day.
The LORD has heard my supplication, The LORD receives my prayer. Psalm 6:9

The Path Ahead

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This morning as I am praying, meditating and listening to God verse 8 stands out in my mind as something I need to hear today: O Lord, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes;  Make Your way straight before me. The second half fees particularly relevant to me as I am searching the path God is laying before me. My family is embarking on a new chapter in our journey right now. It has become clear to me the pastors at h2o church and I are not on the same page when it comes to leadership and overseeing splash. Through this discussion it has become evident to me, God is asking me to step away from my responsibilities there. This is scary for me. I am not sure what is coming next. In June I began working with a nonprofit in Kissimmee in child welfare. I enjoy this, but I also feel a calling to serve God in a local church. I am not sure what that will look like as we move forward. God is making his path straight before.
This current season of my life feels very transient and changing. I can’t place my finger on what or why, but I feel like a significant change is about to occur in the life of our family. It could just be the shift which is inherent in me stepping away from h2o (because this in and of itself is a big transition). It could be the follow up plans I have to begin working as a registered intern in addition to my work with Grace Landing (that nonprofit) I mentioned. I don’t know for sure what the path ahead looks like, but I am confident that God is laying it straight. I am saddened by the impending departure from h2o, but I am also peaceful about it because I know the timing is right. I know this is the next steps God is leading me to take.
If I look back on my life, there have been other times I have made similar decisions which were also scary at  the time, and also didn’t seem like there was a definite plan forward. Each of those times, God has shown up and proved himself reliable. Each time he has demonstrated he has made his paths before me straight.
My prayer today, and moving forward is that I will seek the wisdom of God daily. I will be patient and wait on him. I am praying I will be his servant and move forward in the ways he is leading. I really believe God is doing something unheard of or unexpected in the life of my family in the coming season. Whatever it is, it feels like it is going to be epic and I want to be a part of whatever it is.

Pressure Release

breathe
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah. But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him. Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the LORD. Many are saying, “Who will show us any good?” Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD! You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety. (‭Psalms‬ ‭4‬:‭1-8‬ NASB)

I like how the ESV and the old NIV Bible I have translate verse four: “In your anger do not sin.” If you know me much at all, you know this is something I struggle much with. I have anger issues. I have various issues surrounding anger. One of the issues I have is for many years I don’t think I was ever angry and did not sin. For me the two were synonymous. Anger = sin and sin = anger. Through much anger (strangely enough), frustration and lots of counseling I have come to understand it is possible to be angry and not sin in that anger. I still like to be angry because it takes me dangerously close to sin. For me, it is a very fine line which I would rather heed 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and ‘abstain from every appearance of evil.’
Relief. Verse one says God has relieved me. He has taken the pressure off. He has taken the weight off. Jesus encourages us to take upon us his yoke for it is easy and his burden is light. This is what comes to my mind. Being relieved or freed from having to carry the weight on my own. Being freed from the heavy burden I try to carry on my own. Relief. Rest. Freedom.
It makes sense to me what follows is an encouragement to not sin my anger. It isn’t really a command, but a reminder that I don’t need to. If I have relief, freedom from my burdens… from my battles with my enemy, then I don’t need to allow my anger to take me to a place where I sin. I am free from this too! I am free from having to worry about whether I will sin in my anger because I have been released from the pressure of my battle of my enemy of the burden I am carrying so I don’t need to let it get to that. God is hearing me when I call to him. He is relieving me. He is offering his burden and his yoke which are easy and light and manageable. God is offering me freedom from the shackles of my anger. I don’t need to be its slave any longer.
This is the first time I have read this Psalm in this way… and it is offering me more hope than I could imagine. My life is about to take some serious turns and take a new direction which I had not anticipated and I am bound to struggle with anger and feeling pressure of life and God is reminding me to allow him to carry the burden, reminding me I can relieve the pressure, reminding me I am free from pressure and from sinful anger.

Help those who can’t help themselves

I have done a lot of different things work-wise. Some of them I have liked, others of them have made me question my will to live. And still others, have ranked among the greatest joys of my life.

I worked in the dependency system for Florida’s Department of Children and Families and their contract agencies for almost five years. I have worked in churches for about 10 years. While these jobs are very different, they carry some similarities between them. They both involve caring for people deeply at their core.
It is hard for to name which I have enjoyed more… but suffice it to say, I have found great pleasure in them both.
God has gifted me with great concern for those who are defenseless. I feel it is my calling, responsibility, job… something I need to do.
This works very well when you work in the fields I have been working in. My heart breaks for those in need, for those who can’t fight their own fight for themselves, for those who need someone to stand with them and equip to better attack their situation.
I learned long ago we all go through life carrying two things: a toolbox and a suitcase. And no matter who you are, there are tools in the toolbox and baggage in the suitcase. At times throughout our lives we need assistance gaining more tools in our toolbox and help unpacking the baggage in the suitcase. Psychologist Abraham Maslow is quoted as saying, ‘if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail’. We all need more than one tool in our toolbox, and unfortunately we don’t all have more than one tool. We all need to release ourselves of unnecessary baggage at times. As we go through life, we keep packing the suitcase until it is too heavy to carry and we can’t any longer. We get bogged down. We feel defeated. We feel as though there is no end in sight. We need help in unpacking the unhealthy baggage we have loaded our suitcases up with.
While these sound simple and easy, they aren’t always. We need help. And some of us get so weighed down we can’t see the sun any longer and we quickly lose heart. We give up. We become defenseless. We become unable to move forward on our own.
That’s when we need someone to stand up for us… to fight for us… to not allow us to give up.
Jesus did that for us… it only makes sense we do it for each other. I will never forget when Jesus added tools to my toolbox and unloaded the destructive baggage in my suitcase. I’m far from perfect, but I have been loved and accepted by a Savior who is calling me to live like he does. He is calling me to help.
I am here to help.

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Help those who can't help themselves

I have done a lot of different things work-wise. Some of them I have liked, others of them have made me question my will to live. And still others, have ranked among the greatest joys of my life.

I worked in the dependency system for Florida’s Department of Children and Families and their contract agencies for almost five years. I have worked in churches for about 10 years. While these jobs are very different, they carry some similarities between them. They both involve caring for people deeply at their core.
It is hard for to name which I have enjoyed more… but suffice it to say, I have found great pleasure in them both.
God has gifted me with great concern for those who are defenseless. I feel it is my calling, responsibility, job… something I need to do.
This works very well when you work in the fields I have been working in. My heart breaks for those in need, for those who can’t fight their own fight for themselves, for those who need someone to stand with them and equip to better attack their situation.
I learned long ago we all go through life carrying two things: a toolbox and a suitcase. And no matter who you are, there are tools in the toolbox and baggage in the suitcase. At times throughout our lives we need assistance gaining more tools in our toolbox and help unpacking the baggage in the suitcase. Psychologist Abraham Maslow is quoted as saying, ‘if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail’. We all need more than one tool in our toolbox, and unfortunately we don’t all have more than one tool. We all need to release ourselves of unnecessary baggage at times. As we go through life, we keep packing the suitcase until it is too heavy to carry and we can’t any longer. We get bogged down. We feel defeated. We feel as though there is no end in sight. We need help in unpacking the unhealthy baggage we have loaded our suitcases up with.
While these sound simple and easy, they aren’t always. We need help. And some of us get so weighed down we can’t see the sun any longer and we quickly lose heart. We give up. We become defenseless. We become unable to move forward on our own.
That’s when we need someone to stand up for us… to fight for us… to not allow us to give up.
Jesus did that for us… it only makes sense we do it for each other. I will never forget when Jesus added tools to my toolbox and unloaded the destructive baggage in my suitcase. I’m far from perfect, but I have been loved and accepted by a Savior who is calling me to live like he does. He is calling me to help.
I am here to help.

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Which Jesus? & the Klankster

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***This is an old post, that honestly I’ve posted several times… this morning it just seemed to speak to me.***

As I was running tonite I was afforded the occasion to listen to some of kLaNk’s music. It has been a little while since kLaNk has put out an album. They had one in the last year, but it was only ok. I was listening to the Numb album, their sophomore effort. As I was listening to two songs in particular, I was reminded of my relationship with Jesus. The first songs was Dfl:

I’ll prove to you that I’m a man
With my blood I’ll take a stand
I welcome you with open arms
Have no fear I mean no harm
I know the weight of pain inside
Sometimes the only thing
That’s keeping me alive
I got what it takes to make it through
I want you to know I’m down with you
Gotta drill it in your mind
Friends like me you’ll never find
Words that cut deep like a knife
Just like brothers….Down For Life
I’ll prove to you that I’m a man
With my blood I’ll take a Stand
I welcome you with open arms
Have no fear I mean no harm
I know the weight of pain inside
Sometimes the only thing
That’s keeping me alive
I got what it takes to make it through
I want you to know I’m down with you
Gotta drill it in your mind
Friends like me you’ll never find
Words that cut deep like a knife
Just like brothers….Down For Life
Down…For…Life…I’m down

I finished the Which Jesus? book earlier this week. As I neared the end, Campolo relayed a story of a well-known pastor whose son had died. At the funeral the orator stated that this was God’s will for him to have died. The pastor immediately objected pointing out that Jesus was the first to cry at his son’s death. He reminded us that at some points in our lives, the only comfort we are going to have is knowing that Christ weeps as well. I have felt that way over the last few years. As my mind has been clouded, I have been angry at God often, but as I read those words from Campolo it was very comforting and encouraging to realize that Jesus is crying too. The shortest, and maybe most profound, verse in the Scriptures is in John, “Jesus wept.” Knowing that when my life is hard for me makes Jesus weep, makes it easier to get up each day. In the kLaNk song the lines: I welcome you with open arms; I know the weight of pain inside; I got what it takes to make it through; I want you to know I’m down with you; Friends like me you’ll never find; Just like brothers…

I was also listening to God?:
Tonight’s another night
I wonder aimlessly
To put it all in place
A picture I don’t see
And when I close my eyes
I don’t care if I wake
I use the same excuses
I make the same mistakes
Sometimes it seems so hard
Like you’re ignoring me
I wonder if you do exist
Than what you mean to me
Sometimes I think you hate me
Sometimes I think you hate me
Is this some kind of test
Or a way to make me see
There has to be a reason
Why it’s happening to me
How much more to cry
Until I have a clue
The emptiness I’m feeling
Does it come down to you
Show me everything
And tell me what to feel
My eyes have been so jaded
That I don’t know what is real

Sometimes I think you hate me
Sometimes I think you hate me

As I listened to this song, I realized why God is not afraid of my fears and doubts… he has felt them. Hebrews tells us that our High Priest (Jesus… theology for another time) knows what it is to be like us in every way. I thought of the cross. When Jesus was on the cross he took on the sin of the world and the world was covered in darkness and God hid his face from his only son. Jesus knows what it is like to feel as though God hates him. He has felt as though God left him alone and was not there for him. Hebrews also tells us that God will NEVER leave us or forsake us. I appreciate Rick Warren who points out that it often FEELS like God has left us. And as Ortberg says, in his God is Closer Than You Think book, God is only a reach of the hand away.

I don’t know if kLaNk intended this album to have the spiritual and theological ramifications that it does, but I have been able to apply them for me. In many ways, I believe this album to be the best effort that kLaNk put out.

As I was running I was reminded of the how and when that I became interested in kLaNk and Circle of Dust, who later became Celldweller. I was at ACC and Skip introduced me to Circle of Dust. Another dude, Roy, clued me into kLaNk and then Reese fueled the fire. I actually saw kLaNk in concert many years ago. From there came the interest in Argyle Park. My interest in this music is really more of an obsession than mere interest. I was surprised to think that I have been a big fan of both of these bands since 1996.

Which Jesus? & the Klankster

20130721-082802.jpg

***This is an old post, that honestly I’ve posted several times… this morning it just seemed to speak to me.***

As I was running tonite I was afforded the occasion to listen to some of kLaNk’s music. It has been a little while since kLaNk has put out an album. They had one in the last year, but it was only ok. I was listening to the Numb album, their sophomore effort. As I was listening to two songs in particular, I was reminded of my relationship with Jesus. The first songs was Dfl:

I’ll prove to you that I’m a man
With my blood I’ll take a stand
I welcome you with open arms
Have no fear I mean no harm
I know the weight of pain inside
Sometimes the only thing
That’s keeping me alive
I got what it takes to make it through
I want you to know I’m down with you
Gotta drill it in your mind
Friends like me you’ll never find
Words that cut deep like a knife
Just like brothers….Down For Life
I’ll prove to you that I’m a man
With my blood I’ll take a Stand
I welcome you with open arms
Have no fear I mean no harm
I know the weight of pain inside
Sometimes the only thing
That’s keeping me alive
I got what it takes to make it through
I want you to know I’m down with you
Gotta drill it in your mind
Friends like me you’ll never find
Words that cut deep like a knife
Just like brothers….Down For Life
Down…For…Life…I’m down

I finished the Which Jesus? book earlier this week. As I neared the end, Campolo relayed a story of a well-known pastor whose son had died. At the funeral the orator stated that this was God’s will for him to have died. The pastor immediately objected pointing out that Jesus was the first to cry at his son’s death. He reminded us that at some points in our lives, the only comfort we are going to have is knowing that Christ weeps as well. I have felt that way over the last few years. As my mind has been clouded, I have been angry at God often, but as I read those words from Campolo it was very comforting and encouraging to realize that Jesus is crying too. The shortest, and maybe most profound, verse in the Scriptures is in John, “Jesus wept.” Knowing that when my life is hard for me makes Jesus weep, makes it easier to get up each day. In the kLaNk song the lines: I welcome you with open arms; I know the weight of pain inside; I got what it takes to make it through; I want you to know I’m down with you; Friends like me you’ll never find; Just like brothers…

I was also listening to God?:
Tonight’s another night
I wonder aimlessly
To put it all in place
A picture I don’t see
And when I close my eyes
I don’t care if I wake
I use the same excuses
I make the same mistakes
Sometimes it seems so hard
Like you’re ignoring me
I wonder if you do exist
Than what you mean to me
Sometimes I think you hate me
Sometimes I think you hate me
Is this some kind of test
Or a way to make me see
There has to be a reason
Why it’s happening to me
How much more to cry
Until I have a clue
The emptiness I’m feeling
Does it come down to you
Show me everything
And tell me what to feel
My eyes have been so jaded
That I don’t know what is real

Sometimes I think you hate me
Sometimes I think you hate me

As I listened to this song, I realized why God is not afraid of my fears and doubts… he has felt them. Hebrews tells us that our High Priest (Jesus… theology for another time) knows what it is to be like us in every way. I thought of the cross. When Jesus was on the cross he took on the sin of the world and the world was covered in darkness and God hid his face from his only son. Jesus knows what it is like to feel as though God hates him. He has felt as though God left him alone and was not there for him. Hebrews also tells us that God will NEVER leave us or forsake us. I appreciate Rick Warren who points out that it often FEELS like God has left us. And as Ortberg says, in his God is Closer Than You Think book, God is only a reach of the hand away.

I don’t know if kLaNk intended this album to have the spiritual and theological ramifications that it does, but I have been able to apply them for me. In many ways, I believe this album to be the best effort that kLaNk put out.

As I was running I was reminded of the how and when that I became interested in kLaNk and Circle of Dust, who later became Celldweller. I was at ACC and Skip introduced me to Circle of Dust. Another dude, Roy, clued me into kLaNk and then Reese fueled the fire. I actually saw kLaNk in concert many years ago. From there came the interest in Argyle Park. My interest in this music is really more of an obsession than mere interest. I was surprised to think that I have been a big fan of both of these bands since 1996.