Oh Jake.....

The New Fire and Brimstone?

by on May 12, 2008

This morning, I was considering how sensitive we have become and how we are so easily offended . At times I include myself in that statement. I wonder if the ministerial approaches of the past are no longer as effective as they used to be because people don’t want to feel bad about themselves. We all desire acceptance, we all want to feel like we’re doing well, and we hate being told that we screwed up. When another person’s words convict us, the natural inclination is to want to kick them in the face, or something like that.

Sin is part of the gospel. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) so we’re obviously working toward dropping dead at any given moment, and waking up in a place that smells like burnt hair, among other things. That is, until we pull our heads out and realize that we’ve been offered something to get us out of it, with no cost to us.

How do we get people to that point of understanding that they are sinners in need of a merciful God though, without making them hate Christians and our God because apparently, we judge? Did it ever occur to people that we don’t judge, that perhaps we just notice sin because we’re good at it too? (I’m amazing in this area) What do we say? I genuinely don’t have a clue! I think that they (we) should feel bad about themselves, even just a little so that they (we) can gain that understanding that Jesus died for that particular reason, that we are all sinners! But if you take that approach in conversation, you’ve got another thing coming!

I guess I say all this because I go to a state university with a lot of people who aren’t Christian. I love it, they’re all amazing. In my attempts to witness to my peers, I have seen some success, but I have also seen doors slam shut in my face! I can speak of eternal life and pearly gates, and love and I’ve got their attention, but when I throw that three letter word in, and it makes a mess of things! Oh sin, why do you mock me? I’ll get you someday, or something like that. I suppose that I want my friends to know that I screw up, and if you’d admit that some aspects to your life that you claim as lifestyle, aren’t necessarily just that, but something against the nature of God, that you have wholly given yourself to, then things might change. I know it sucks giving certain things up. Addiction is powerful, independence is more so, so why would we want to cause ourselves suffering of any sort and give by trying to get something out of our lives that we have grown so fond of?

Instead of talking to people, I would rather beat the hell out of them ( I mean that in a Biblical sense). I think that it would be easier.

There is power in offending people. I’m not talking about that sick sadistic power exercised over another person, but in making them cringe a little, momentarily taking their comfort away.

Making them think.

Any kinda sorta smart-ish person will wonder why they’re angry after something made them so, won’t they? I’m not sure. I wish. I think that if people looked at the motivation behind their emotions (especially in this area) we’d get a lot further. Then again, a world of retrospective people does seem a little on the emotional side. Perhaps I wouldn’t like that so much either. Not sure, but making people mad can be fun.

Oh Jake.....

All is not perfect in the world

by on April 15, 2008

Who am I saved for? Myself, Jesus, or the world? I can’t tell. I hear messages proclaiming prosperity, joy, peace, and love, and me just enjoying the crap out of life. I love these messages. They make me feel good about who I am, and tell me that everything is going to be OK. I step away from these messages into warm days with beautiful blue skies where even if everything isn’t perfect, it’s headed there so I have nothing to worry about. Forget about child molestation, rape, murder, and everything else that is happening in my neighborhood. Forget the old person in front of me who can’t manage to push hard enough on the pedal to accelerate to the speed limit, I’m certainly not shaking my fist at them calling them names that I shouldn’t. Forget those hourly occurrences that now answer to the title of “mistake”. At one point in time, we called that sin. The list will continue to grow about everything that isn’t right. There are ugly people out there! They will get you! Of course I’m kidding with that (somebody has to lighten the mood)! What I’m working toward here is when do we remember that we are sinners in a world that daily is raped and pillaged by the devil? When will we stop seeking joy, happiness, peace and calm?

My disclaimer is that there is nothing wrong with peace, joy and happiness. I pray for them daily. Not only that, but Jesus has won the battle, so ultimately, everything is going to be all right. But, when do we treat the positive emotions as painkillers and facades? How often do we take a couple of Tylenol, not realizing that we have made nothing better, we have only managed to shut out the pain? Pain tells us that something is wrong. Pain motivates us to change something. Pain cries out to us on a level that we used to have to acknowledge, but now we have found ways around it. Pain is imperative to a Christian walk. (I contest that anger is too, we’ll see if we get that far right now). When I avoid pain, who do I rip off? God allows certain events to happen in our lives for any number of reasons. We screw up daily, and our mistakes come with consequences. Herpes anyone? I understand that might have been vulgar, but in many cases, that statement holds a lot of truth! The mistakes that we make carry consequences with them. God forgives us, Jesus Christ died on the cross for those very sins, but He never said that He’d (always) take our consequences away (sometimes he does though, praise HIM-that is generous)! That’s a way to avoid greasy grace, is to understand that even if we don’t experience immediate results due to our propensity to sin, there ultimately can be a consequence. God also allows pain into our lives for the purpose of growth. Working out sucks. If anyone were to see me, my pale thin form would prove that I live out my convictions to that statement. Working out is no fun because it hurts, and will make you sore, sometimes for days! But lifting weights, running, and all that lovely torture associated with exercise makes for a “great body” with lots of rippling muscles, or at least no love handles. How many of us want that body without the effort? I know I do!

God has emotions too. I know, He’s perfect, and you’re probably quoting 1 John 4 right now, but love is more than an emotion. In Genesis chapter six, we see that God, “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” Our evil caused him pain-He wasn’t even working out! We too will experience pain due to our own evil inclinations.

What happens to people who don’t know Christ when they see fake Christians forcing smiles through life? I don’t think that they believe us. Not only do we smile through everything, but Christians seem to have a illegitimate fear of anger. I will tell you right now that I’m angry (You’re not shocked). Not all the time, but stuff in life makes me mad, and I tell people. Proverbs 4:4 says, “Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah” God even ends with “Selah”- meditate on that for a while, is what the almighty is saying to us. The Genesis account of creation tells us that we are created in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). God gets mad. We will too. God becomes angry at sin, and so should we. I get mad at my own sin, I become irritated at others’ sins sometimes, but I try not to judge (not always successfully, mind you…I try though). I mess up, so do others. Are we supposed to be fine with it? Put rape or molestation in that context and see how passive you are then? Sin is sin. There are no varying degrees to it, no one sin is worse than the others. People grade sin. I got an A in wrath the other day! (That is nothing to be proud of Johhny) When someone who has no clue who Jesus really is sees passive, empty-headed religious folk who don’t KNOW how to react to certain events, they don’t get a good picture of Jesus. I get mad, and I think that sometimes, God is proud of me for it. I get mad and sin though too, so don’t take this to any extreme, or I’ll fight you.

Getting back to my original question, “Who am I saved for…?” I ask again? Who do I put up a front for? Me, Jesus or the world? I seek my own out of selfishness, and therefore am taking the gift of salvation for me, not being a light to the world. I don’t represent Jesus accurately, and I don’t offer any saltiness (which I equate with anger, it just seems so fitting) to the world! I didn’t become a Christian for myself, but to glorify God and to lead others to the salvation offered at the cross by Christ. When they see that I’m not perfect, and that life continues to be a little challenging, but understand the grace and mercy that accompany salvation, they get a good picture of what it means to follow Jesus. I want to show people that. I want to be offended by the right things (I mean offended, not in the Christianese sense) and show some righteous indignation sometimes! It’s more genuine, and I feel a little more Christ-like than when I just smile at people. Emotional confusion is not righteous confusion. There is nothing righteous about it, so don’t do it.

Heresy is taking any doctrine or principle too far, so I’m going to plead with anyone who reads this, please don’t run too far with it. That too would be bad. Christian Drama should be limited to the passion plays and movies. Don’t create any in your own life, because like I said earlier, crap will hit the fan, you don’t need to make any more come along or blow it out of proportion.

Oh Jake.....

Easier said than done

by on December 26, 2007

The pursuit of happiness leaves one with scars and muscle. Wrong moves and other such mistakes leave us bearing the cicatrices that remind us of times when we didn’t know what we were doing or perhaps where we were going. Muscle results from digging ourselves out of the messes that we find ourselves in or working so frustratingly hard to accomplish something. Both carry with them incredible significance worth considering. Often it is said, “I just want to be happy”. I know that I’ve heard it a million times from the high school guys that I mentor. They say this, but then I don’t see them do anything to give rise to different circumstances in which they can own that sometimes elusive state we call happiness. I find myself thinking about this subject occasionally as well and I wonder what it takes to be happy.

Some people find joy in their work, others when they’re far away from their job, with their family, friends, drunk, recreating somewhere, when they get lost in their hobbies, and the list goes on. I happen to be a workaholic and so live with this ridiculous feeling that I can’t be happy without the right job. Since I’m still in college, and therefore have a crappy schedule to work with, this means that I currently don’t have this amazing vocation to serve as the impetus to me having an amazing life. Makes sense, doesn’t it? I have to ask people if they want fries with that so I have valid ground to hate my life and everything involved in it, yes? Of course not, I’m not that dramatic! Close though. Tonight, my stomach was churning at the thought of having to go back to this wretched place from which I draw pay in exchange for precious life moments that could be spent or wasted anywhere else. Believe me, I’d rather waste time than be at this hole. Funny thing about it though is that “God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are” (1Cor 1:27-28).

Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey (John 12:14). He came to earth as an infant, not born in some great palace with fireworks and all that jazz, he snuck in. I’m sure there are other examples of how God chooses simple things to teach, to bless and to correct those who belong to Him. This job, although I show up and want nothing more than to have something large fall on me, just in case it might hurt me enough that I might be able to not be there, this job might just be God’s way of taking care of me right now. Ouch. Bad words. WHY?

As usual, I’ve been daydreaming on what my perfect life will look like someday, and I consider also how it might be if certain elements never make their way in. Maybe that’s a faith issue, but I can’t imagine myself being happy if I don’t like my work; I can’t imagine serving food the rest of my life. So I live with this derisible fear that I’m not going to get a good job doing what I want or feel called to, and that consequently, I’ll despise my life and forever be depressed. I know that such will not be the case, but c’mon! That said, I have ruminated on what it would be like, having some crappy job, trying not to flip out at age forty-five and have a midlife crisis. I need God. Every last bit that I can get to make sure that I’m not a middle-aged therapy case who suddenly decides that a change in lifestyle and career is the remedy to unhappiness. I understand that good old-fashioned Christian maturity would more than likely offer a large amount of restraint against such foolhardy acts as going out and buying a convertable and finding myself a young hottie to ride around with, but does that same maturity bring peace and joy with it?

I’ve had people tell me that joy can be learned, and to a degree I can believe that. I feel like part of it is understanding all of the good elements to life and reflecting on them, while continuing to work toward some goal, at least for me, someone else might be different. But this thought feels so plastic; like a facade that has to go because underneath it there’s going to be trouble if people don’t snap into action soon and make me smile! I was thinking about this on my way home tonight and realized that I had been looking at my future like this: I could get that dream job and be happy, still serving God, or I could not get that dream job and live in what would feel like eternal misery, still serving God. I didn’t ask myself until tonight, “Can you not get what you want and still be happy, only serving God?”
Can God be my source of joy? Honestly, I should be asking myself, “Why isn’t he ALREADY the reason for any happiness?”
Oh man, I suck sometimes! Psalms goes through and gives the example of looking to God for joy and happiness, proverbs has this theme occasionally as well, not to mention other random places where God tells us that not only does He love us, but that He wants to make us happy, too! So I have to suck it up once again, and realize that there are going to be a lot of opportunities for pain in my life; there will be just as many possibilities to be happy too. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, and we don’t always get what we want. It sucks, but what else can we say or do? God wants us to focus on Him and all too often we allow these petty things like jobs to get between Him and us and not only do they manage to rob us of our relationship with Him, but they also succeed in ripping us off from our joy and peace as well!

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