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!

Oh Jake.....

It doesn’t matter…

by on December 15, 2007


Please forgive me if I come across as nihilistic when I claim that it is not important what I do, where I live, or even who I marry. It feels almost meaningless! Not that I don’t care about any of these little life elements, but I’m just worrying about them less lately. Here’s why; I’ve discovered something about God’s will that I didn’t know before. He might have a perfect vocation for me, or there may be a few. After all, God does have his good, pleasing and perfect will according to Romans 12:2, so doesn’t that mean that there are options? Where I’m headed with this is that perhaps we worry too much about what we do with our lives… or MAYBE we overspiritualize everything. Please, understand that I feel that prayer and seeking God’s voice is significant in many aspects of our life, and I feel that the Holy Spirit wants to be a part of everything that we do, and so we should include Him in everything, but really…should I pray about what shirt to wear in the morning? OK. That IS dramatic I know, but what happens when I have two options that seem to be great, we’ll say two different schools, one which would allow me to stay where I live now, and one that would require me to move to Seattle or something. I pray and pray and pray about what to do, and I don’t hear God speak. What do I do? I’m not sure, but I feel like inaction might be as much of a sin as something like murder or adultery, so I need to make a choice. This is where life gets interesting.

Have we ever stopped to consider that perhaps God’s perfect will for our lives has little or maybe even nothing to do with our vocation, wife, house, car, kids, family, and the list goes on? That perhaps God’s perfect will for our lives has something do to with our relationship with Him? Here’s the funny thing about this, many people look at the whole “God’s purpose for my life” thing to justify their desires for big careers or for certain lifestyles. When we look at this whole concept of divine purpose having its foundation in the midst of interrelation contrary to profession or occupation, that opens the door for suffering, at least to a larger degree. What’s more, is that even if we do associate providence with a career or a certain goal, perhaps it is only so to get us to a certain point in our relationship with our Father in Heaven. Once again, that opens the door do failure! We don’t like to hear that at all!

If we open the Word to Hebrews chapter 11 we see what some refer to as the Bible’s “hall of fame”, where Paul speaks of many of the Old Testament patriarchs. In verse eight, Paul begins speaking of Abraham and the promise made to him about having descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. The promise made to his son and grandson were the same, they were living as part of the promise made to Abraham, and being of his inheritance, had the potential for that same promise that God made to Abraham apply to them! Verse thirteen says, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth
Oh snap! They did not receive the promise! How does that even work with God? He can’t lie, right? The quick and simple answer is No, that God can’t lie, and when we pay attention to the word, we see that God did exactly what He said He would, but the people didn’t live to experience all of it. What we see here might be prototypical to our own lives; that God tells us things or even gives us dreams that are bigger than we are, that we might not ever get close to, but in the pursuit of both those dreams and relationship with God, we’ll enter into that perfect will with Him, which happens to be the right relationship with him.

I love this in my spirit, but my soul cringes at the thought because there is so much potential to pain and failure within this idea that it makes me wonder if I’ll just see my dreams at a distance, never attaining them. I feel like that would be incredibly unfulfilling and I’d probably be a contentious expletive in the process, but the element that makes this whole business of pursuing God’s will valuable is that He, our Creator, the One who loves us, who won’t leave us nor forsake us either, goes with us along the way. It’s all about relationship and so we get to know Him through this whole life thing that can be so much fun and such an ordeal within the same five minutes. He reveals himself to us and provides our joy, strength, and gives aid and comfort the entire time.

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