V GENUINE MOTIV TION Oct. 2 0 1 0
YOUNG CHRISTIAN MAN
JESUS VS. VLAD THE IMPALER: WHICH WOULD YOU WANT FOR KING?
Are You MIA
in the Family of God?
STUPID THINGS CHRISTIANS DO TO MESS UP THIER LIVES
OJ: Better than Red Bull for Long Drives?
YOUNG CHRISTIAN MAN 04
Feature Article: A King Like No Other
On The Couch: The Pathway To Forgiveness
Can You Relate: An Empty Place
Cornered By Grace: Conditional Power
Press On: Focal Point
The Recap: 10 Stupid Things Christians Do...
The Toolbox: Better Than An Energy Drink
THOM MOLLOHAN ROB BEAMES WILL DOLE
DONNA LEE SCHILLINGER
A PUBLICATION OF ON MY OWN NOW MINISTRIES
VISIT OUR ARCHIVES TO VIEW PAST ISSUES OF GENUINE MOTIVATION
OCTOBER 2010 EDITOR IN CHIEF / ROB BEAMES ART + CREATIVE DIRECTOR / MICHAEL MURO
LIKE NO OTHER by ROB BEAMES
ankind has hungered for power and control since the beginning of time. Many societies have suffered at the hands of greedy monarchs throughout man’s history. Most of us know something about the evil regimes of such dictators like Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Saddam Hussein, whose hideously cruel tortures and thoughtless killings kept their kingdoms under control. We might know of other famous kings like King Henry VIII, who frightened his subjects into submission with impetuous and insane antics. There are throngs of lesser known rulers throughout history whose lasting legacy consists of unbelievable brutality utilized to regulate their kingdoms. For example, Vlad Tepes, Prince of Wallachia (1431 – 1476), was overthrown on three separate occasions, and given the inhuman treatment of his people, it’s no wonder. His bloody methods of torture and murder may have been the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. Vlad the Impaler, as he was known, was legendary for atrocities which included almost every imaginable evil one could impart on another human being, including his preferred method of execution which earned him his nickname. Impaling exacted torture for hours, or even days before the victim’s death, and was intended to strike fear into the populace, much like crucifixion did in the Roman Empire during the time of Christ. Reportedly, Tepes imposed these barbarous methods of death on anyone who broke his laws, especially for the crimes of lying, stealing and adultery. It is said that both men and women, regardless of age, religion or social class were subject to these gruesome punishments with absolutely no exceptions.
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As Christians, we often talk about God as our King, and rightfully so. He reigns over the inhabitants of His kingdom by residing within their hearts. He governs very differently than any other ruler. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment...” (1 John 4:18). Our King is the personification of perfect love. One day, our God will rule, not only spiritually in our hearts, but physically over us in space and time. When that happens, His enemies will be totally and completely destroyed, which is an accomplishment no previous king can claim. Not one individual will remain in His realm with the hope of usurping His power, and no person in the expanse of His Kingdom will ever want anything other than for Him to occupy His rightful place on the throne. It’s the grand, old story which has been repeatedly, though incompletely, told in books and movies, and it’s the hope of all His faithful from every generation. Ever wonder what it will be like when Christ physically returns? If we were to imagine, we might envision a vast plain as far as the eye can see in every direction, filled with a countless multitude attentively standing in eager anticipation. This nation, unlike any other seen before, is a massive gathering of all the righteous men and women who have ever lived from every race and position— all are equal here. They stand as perfect, physical specimens of health, strength and maturity. They do not appear to need the protection, provision or the direction of a king. They lack nothing, and yet stand in unison with an expectant gaze fixed toward a magnificent chair lifted high across a vast crystal sea awaiting the official enthronement of their King
for all time. From the throne lightening streaks across the sky. Thunder continuously rumbles from this grand chair. Before the throne seven brilliant lamps are blazing.
forced out of pure fear. It would not flow sincerely from the hearts of the vast majority, and sadly, there would be no chance left for them to do so.
Then, the long-anticipated One approaches the throne and is seated. With no further cue—the masses drop to a knee at precisely the same time. The singular sound of every knee simultaneously hitting the ground is deafening: like a sudden clap of thunder. The earth shakes from the force. Immediately, a unified chant erupts and continues with the volume of crashing waves against a rocky shore, “Praise Yahweh! Glory, honor and power belong to our Lord and God! We are His, and He is ours!”
“JESUS ATONED FOR OUR CRIMES AGAINST GOD, SO WE COULD HAVE A LOVING RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM.”
The actual event is more accurately described the last book of the Bible, and will undoubtedly be much more fantastic than the musings above, but there will be a notable difference between Christ’s coronation and that of Vlad the Impaler. There will be no presence of fear; only awe and respect. Every enemy who might have cringed at this ultimate show of power will have been exiled far away, never to be seen again. Every knee that drops—and all of them will—bowed willingly, anxiously and out of a love which will never be duplicated. Every tongue which confesses allegiance to this King will do so with great desire and an eagerness to express what it feels in the heart.
“HE REIGNS OVER THE INHABITANTS OF HIS KINGDOM BY RESIDING WITHIN THEIR HEARTS.” The New American Standard Bible expresses God’s invitation to His people in this way, “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance” (Isaiah 45:22-23). Those aren’t the words of a tyrant seeking to dominate the masses, but rather the words of the only One with the power to save, inviting anyone who wants to share in His kindness. His people will pledge their allegiance out of love, gratitude and a sincere affection for their King. Although some kings obtained involuntary, short-lived submission with the threat of cruel death—not so with this King. When the “ends of the earth” bow to Him, it will be for an eternity, and out of a deeply devoted loyalty to Him. His subjects will truly love and adore Him, as opposed to the subjects of other kings who only verbalized that sediment out of fear. This genuine relationship God has with His own may help answer a question we may have all asked ourselves at one time or another, “If God does exist, why doesn’t He simply come down and prove it to everyone?” Well, His ways are not our ways. We have come to expect this type of intimidation from sinful rulers—a sort of “If you’ve got it, flaunt it” mentality. God certainly “has it,” but He has no need to “flaunt it.” If He were to do this, every soul would indeed submit to Him, but for many, their homage would be
But does He really deal with us in kindness today? Sometimes it’s difficult to feel His love, and it doesn’t always seem like we escape His punishment either. The answer in one word is: propitiation. This is a word theologians define as God’s just wrath which was intended for us—once His enemies—but was satisfied by Christ’s death on the cross. Basically, it means God doesn’t need to punish us, because He punished Jesus in our place. Jesus atoned for our crimes against God, so we could have a loving relationship with Him. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). This completed atonement, or propitiation, allows our King to deal with us in kindness, rather than with threats of punishment. This was God’s plan from the very beginning. Although in the Old Testament, God can sometimes appear to be no different than any other power-wielding sovereign, He was then continuously pointing His people forward to the coming Messiah who would seal His covenant of grace. Through the prophet Isaiah, God speaks about this aspect of propitiation which Christ accomplished for us, “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). When Israel begged Samuel for a king, they asked for the most impressive physical representative among them, and crowned Saul as their first king. After Saul’s unfaithfulness, God lead Samuel to crown the unimpressive looking David, saying, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Throughout the Bible, we discover that this is His primary concern: the attitude of our hearts. Anyone in power can take the easy pathway to submission by a show of brute force, but the response won’t be genuine, and it won’t be lasting. No, He desires heartfelt devotion, which can only be earned. He purchased our adoration at a great price. As the only true God, He already deserved this kind of devotion from us, but He paid a king’s ransom to get it anyway. Wow! Who else loves us like that? This means that we can trust that God doesn’t use the fear of punishment to motivate us now. This gives us the peace to accept the decisions we have made in the past, and in some cases this means forgiving ourselves. It can also give us the courage to step out of our comfort zones in the future. We can hold fast to the fact that our King deals with us in love like no one else can. That’s a story which is not found in the annals of our earthly kingdoms. That’s the story of a King like no other.
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on the couch
THE PATHWAY TO FORGIVENESS by Randy Kosloski
Kevin’s father was a paranoid schizophrenic. He was violent and unpredictable. Once after being charged for contempt of court, it took six police officers to subdue him. When I met Kevin, his father had just been arrested. I don’t know a lot about paranoid schizophrenia. However, I do know that people with this unfortunate illness are typically dramatic, self-absorbed and often emotionally harmful to those close to them. To the casual observer they may appear humorous. Apparently, Kevin’s dad would frequent his neighbors’ garages in the middle of the night and work on their cars without invitation. To make matters worse, his father had absolutely no knowledge of cars! Can you imagine waking up to find your neighbor “fixing” your car without your approval, without any expertise, when your car doesn’t even have a problem? That was one of few humorous highlights to Kevin’s otherwise difficult story. When I first spoke with Kevin, he wanted a way to officially separate from his emotionally toxic father. However, I believed that the biggest obstacle Kevin had to overcome was his inability to forgive his father. Many times I would lie awake at night with thoughts of the possibly hostile interactions between this father and his only son. It’s difficult enough for a young man to forgive something his father has done to him, but how does one forgive his father for the person he simply is? Kevin’s father was mentally disturbed, aloof and absolutely incapable of giving his son a sense of worth or the confidence necessary to become a man of integrity. The 18th Century English poet, Alexander Pope, wrote, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Forgiveness would not be divine if it was easy. A relative of mine once explained that the hardest thing she ever had to do was to forgive her two-year-old daughter for suddenly deciding that she did not need her mother anymore. This mother would have rather given herself kidney surgery! Eventually she understood that this typical twoyear-old behavior and she was able to get past the pain. God created the human race and then had to forgive His creation as they turned their backs on Him. What He did was much worse than performing one’s own kidney surgery. He sacrificed His only Son to torment, torture and death at the hands of those He chose to forgive. Fortunately for us, God continues to forgive us even though we often spurn His son. I did not abandon him in his decision to completely detach from his father, but as I walked along side of him, I tried to highlight the strong feelings he had for his father by first addressing his feelings of anger, and then discussing the warmer ones. I wanted him to understand that the only way to forgive someone is by loving them. I can’t say I fully
understand this concept, but I know it’s true. For there is no other way that God could have sacrificed so much to forgive those He created, unless He loved the them beyond all measure. Kevin would not be convinced that he needed to forgive his father in order to find the freedom he sought in his life. I really believed that he could never move toward further development until he accepted exactly who his father was, and what he was incapable of doing. Only then could he look elsewhere for the two things he needed most, which are only found in our heavenly Father: confidence and sense of value. Kevin did seem to connect with some of the warmer feelings that he had toward his father. He also began to understand that the mixture of hate and love is what made his relationship with his father so difficult. He loved his father, and because of that love, he had expectations for him which could not be met. He hoped that his father would reciprocate his love, but this didn’t seem possible. This was a continual insult from which Kevin just wanted relief. However, to move on without first forgiving is to flee, and fleeing is cowardice.
“GOD CREATED THE HUMAN RACE AND THEN HAD TO FORGIVE HIS CREATION AS THEY TURNED THEIR BACKS ON HIM.” In the Confessions of St. Augustine, he prays, “Truly the sinners flee so they do not have to see You seeing them. They run because they are blind and they are afraid they might stumble against You in the dark.” Courage is almost as important as love in forgiveness. It takes courage to admit that we can be hurt by others, and yet continue to love them anyway. We pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Our forgiveness doesn’t depend on the magnitude of the infraction, nor the origination of it. If we truly forgive from the heart, we can be free of injurious past events or people. Kevin finally cut all ties with his father. From his description of their last conversation, it was a fairly calm scene. Although he walked away from his father, I suspect that he will not be free from the grip of his father’s toxicity—not until he forgives him for it.
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Can You Relate By, Thom Mollohan Whether we’re a “no show” at the sports bar, or we can’t make it home for a holiday gathering, or worst of all, we stand up a girl for a date, people will let us know when we’re missed. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of our presence, but when we are absent, we’re often missed more than we know. Jesus went missing once. In Luke 2:41-49 we find the account of Mary and Joseph returning home from their annual visit to Jerusalem for the Passover. They thought that Jesus was with their traveling companions. They went a whole day before realizing that He was not with them. Three days more went by before they found him at the temple, where he had been the whole time. Can you imagine the panic His family must have felt during those three days? I bet those were sleepless nights too. Obviously, Jesus was missed. Families are like that. They are endowed with a sense of interconnectedness and responsibility for one another which leaves the rest of the family feeling incomplete when any of the members are missing. As we grow into adults, the connectedness and need for one another does not cease. It becomes more abstract as miles or circumstances separate
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us and prevent physical closeness. Of course, selfish attitudes, bitterness, and an unforgiving heart can destroy the fragile fabric that binds us to one another; nonetheless, we are wired in such a way that we feel pain when a loved one is missing. This is true of the family of God as well. If we have been brought into a relationship with God by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then we are like the sheep of which Jesus spoke in Luke 15:3-7. We are brought not only into a fold, but also into a family in which we each hold a unique place. We are priceless to Him. He has saved us and placed us in His family for a specific purpose. When we are not in daily fellowship with Jesus, there is an empty place, so to speak, in Jesus’ heart, and we become like the sheep that strayed from the fold—the one Jesus left the 99 others to pursue. The absence of our fellowship wounds Him. Not only that, but there is a vacuum created in the family of God as well. The Father has created us to be dependent upon each other. Correspondingly, He has gifted us so that we complement one another as we walk, individually and corporately, through life. If we give up attending a Bible-teaching, Spirit-lead church, then
PHOTO COURTESY OF: EYEFETCH.COM
we forfeit the blessings of support that God gives to His children through His church. In fact, the best revelations of God at work in our lives happen in the context of His family. This interaction from God is meant to be a blessing to all His children and not just for individual believers. Demonstrations of God at work in the world are vital to those who are lost around us. Our obedience to Christ through fellowship with each other gives testimony to the fact that we do indeed belong to Him. Our love for one another is the best means we have to validate the truth of what we share in the gospel of Christ. “As I have loved you,” said Jesus, “so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 14:34b-35). The fruitful sharing of the gospel is intimately tied to our relating to each other as family. When we share the heart of Christ, we desire to proclaim the gospel to the world around us, so that the hope we have in the Son of God can be the experience of those who do not yet know Him. If we truly long to see any more lost sheep come into the fold, then we will desire the fellowship and unity of His people.
Paul described well this aspect of our dependence in a letter to the Corinthians: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many… God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be… God has combined the members of the body… so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 18, 24b, 25-27). If we have been missing the fellowship of our church family, we should know that our gifts given to build up the His family have also been missed. Why not consider returning soon to enjoy the blessing of His family, and so He may love others through you? He is eager to help us heal any pain created by our absence from His body of believers.
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C O N D I TIONAL POWER CORNERED BY GRACE by ROB BEAMES
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PHOTO COURTESY OF: MATTHEW CELIA
Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). It’s difficult to read those words without feeling the sharp pangs of guilt. We know we love Jesus, and yet, we know deep inside that we don’t obey His commands all of the time. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we would probably have to admit that we don’t even obey all that often. We can hear the accusations of our “old selves” using the cold logic of a mathematical theorem: We don’t obey like we should, therefore we don’t truly love Him, and so that means... Well, we can’t bear to finish that thought. It leads us to a place we don’t want to return. Our doubts have taken us there too many times. But these words don’t have to cut so deeply. They don’t have to crush our view of our new self in Christ and destroy our trust in a completely reconciled relationship with God. What kind of effect did Jesus want them to have on us? Is it actually possible to read this verse, and be encouraged, rather than feeling like we just heard the rooster crow three times? If we consider this verse in context and in the Greek language, it’s highly possible that Jesus meant these words to be more than just a warning to us. In the Greek, John 14:15 could be classified as a third-class condition, so that the statement “you will obey My commands” happens only when the condition “if you love Me” is actually met. It’s like saying, “If you love Me—and I know that you do—don’t worry, you’re going to eventually obey My commands.” This removes the manipulative parental overtone. However, we should be cautious in placing too much weight on the nuances of the original languages alone. So let’s look at the context too. John 14:15 is preceded and followed by more conditional clauses: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (14:23), “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love” (15:10), and “You are my friends, if you do what I command” (15:14). It’s almost as if there is an emphasis on them. But if we only attend to the conditional clauses in this passage, we can easily miss the entire message Jesus wanted to convey. After Jesus says, “If you love me,” He tells His disciples immediately that He will give them another Comforter, a Helper, to be with them forever. Later Jesus explains that He is telling them these things so that His joy will be in them, and their joy will be complete (15:11). So, before telling His disciples that they will be His friends if they do certain things, He reminds them of the great love they are about to be shown when He lays down His life for them. There was absolutely no condition
attached to this selfless act of love. He doesn’t say, “I’m going to do this for you if you obey.” No, He simply tells them this will be done for them because they are His friends. It’s almost like He is saying, “Hey, when you find yourselves obeying Me you should really be happy, because it proves that you are friends of Mine.” Fortunately for us, there are even more unconditional statements in these two chapters to balance out the conditional ones. Perhaps the most encouraging statement is actually in the form of a promise. John 15:16 says that the disciples “did not chose Him, but He chose them, not only to bear fruit, but fruit that will last.” Paul further defines this fruit to the Church at Philippi as “the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:11), and encourages them that he is “confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). These verses imply that God doesn’t give us a task only to watch us fail.
“THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO CONDITION ATTACHED TO THIS SELFLESS ACT OF LOVE.” It’s important to note that only 12 verses after our initial condition at John 14:15, Jesus explains exactly how He wants His disciples to feel by saying, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you…do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid” (verse 27). He apparently doesn’t want them to be troubled about what will happen to them, or even how well they will obey His commands. He is sending them the Holy Spirit to give them peace, so they don’t have to worry. They can have peace knowing that He will accomplish in them what He set out to do. These conditional statements in John are meant to encourage us today too, not to load us down with guilt. It’s important not to isolate those 10 words and get only part of the message. Neither should we ignore what they clearly say. Our responsibility to obey Christ remains; the command to bear fruit is always before us. However, we also have the opportunity to rest in the peace He freely offers us though faith in Him. God’s powerful Spirit has been given to us to ensure we can obey and bear lasting fruit—as His friends. Perhaps if we would focus more on the intimate friendship we now have with Him—regardless of our performance—we may be surprised at how obedient His Spirit will eventually cause us to become. (I believe He wanted me to remind you of this.)
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FOCAL POINT PRESS ON
BY WILL DOLE
In physics, the focal point of a lens is the point which brings divergent light together. In spiritual matters, a similar focal point can be helpful when considering two seemingly divergent aspects of our relationship with God, like how our works relate to our salvation by faith.
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John says, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:3-6). In other words, if we don’t keep God’s commandments, and yet say we know Him, we are liars. That’s a difficult concept to grasp, because we know we aren’t perfect. However, if you feel you do a pretty good job at keeping His commands, consider the following illustration. A pastor who is married with children preaches regularly against sexual immorality. Makes sense. But while faithfully explaining scripture to his church members, this same guy is sleeping with his secretary. What a hypocrite, right? But before we take the moral high road, we need to realize that we are just as guilty. How can that be if we aren’t a pastor or even married? James explains this for us, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). So, we may not have committed adultery, but if we have sinned in any way—lied, cheated, lusted, stolen or placed more value on any thing than God—then we are just as guilty as the pastor in our illustration. We’re actually in the same boat as the worst of them, such as Adolph Hitler, Osama Bin Laden or Joseph Stalin. Paul reminds us that all have sinned, none naturally seek God and all deserve hell (Romans 3:23). On the other hand, God tells us to follow His commands, and yet anytime we violate one command, we become guilty of all of them. Seems like a hopeless plight, does it not?
“THE MAN WHO SAYS, ‘I KNOW HIM,’ BUT DOES NOT DO WHAT HE COMMANDS IS A LIAR, AND THE TRUTH IS NOT IN HIM. BUT IF ANYONE OBEYS HIS WORD, GOD’S LOVE IS TRULY MADE COMPLETE IN HIM.” It’s true we are dead and without hope in our sinful nature, but in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul reminds us that our salvation is by grace through faith. Solely through the work of God—it is His gift to us. It is not anything we can earn by works. God freely gives us salvation! How does the gift of salvation mesh with the earlier statement that those who aren’t walking in God’s commandments don’t love Him? Don’t these passages contradict?
The point they come together—the focal point—is our realization that salvation is only by the grace of God. It comes when we figure out that apart from Him, we are nothing. When we realize this, we become truly thankful for what He has done. Out of this gratitude, we can discover what theologian and author D.A. Carson calls our “grace-driven effort.” Following God’s commands does not give us salvation, which is fortunate for us, because if it did, we’d all be lost. Our efforts are driven out of gratitude for the grace and mercy that our Lord has already given us. We cannot claim to love God and continue to walk in sin, because true love for God will compel us to repent. It is as James says: Our faith is dead without works, (James 2:17). Faith without works is not faith at all, because faith in what God has done for us through Jesus will bring us to our knees in worship. This doesn’t mean that guilt alone should move us to act, but rather we should be driven by love.
“WE CANNOT CLAIM TO LOVE GOD AND CONTINUE TO WALK IN SIN, BECAUSE TRUE LOVE FOR GOD WILL COMPEL US TO REPENT.” Usually we miss out on what God has for us in one of two ways. We either follow our lists of “dos” and “don’ts,” or we behave as if “anything goes.” One person lives in fear of sinning and consequently fails to live as God has called him to live, perhaps being prideful and complacent to evangelize. On the flip side, believing in a cotton candy version of God, results in the hypocrisy of which John warns. God hasn’t called us to follow religious rules, nor has He called us to live carelessly. Rather, He offers Himself as a sacrifice to bring us back into a relationship with Him which should cause us to love with a passionate desire to worship and serve the One who is more worthy than we can ever express. We owe Him everything. We deserve death and eternal separation, but that’s not what we get. He loves us so much that He brings us back to Him. That is amazing! John Piper wrote, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” What could be more satisfying than the opportunity to serve the God of all the universe? If we aren’t passionate about loving Him, following Him and proclaiming His majesty to the world, then how could we claim to know Him? Having this passion doesn’t mean we execute our good intentions perfectly—or even very well very much of the time—but it should completely and utterly transform us to our core. In His perfect timing, the Spirit of God will bring out this passionate core within us making Him the focal point of our lives to His glory.
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The Recap 10 STUPID THINGS CHRISTIANS DO TO MESS UP THEIR LIVES By Eric Guzman
I’ve done some stupid things in my short life on this planet. At the risk of incriminating myself, I’ll give you some examples. Back in high school, on more than one occasion, I would grab a friend, get a couple bottles of Boone’s Farm and go driving around drinking. That’s bad enough, but just for the thrill of it, we would drive down winding roads on the edge of a river in the middle of the night… with our lights off. Another time, I took acid with some friends and went jet skiing. I’ll spare you the psychodelic details, but it’s enough to say, we could have all died. Then, there was the car surfing, and the time I hooked up with my crazy coked-out roommate. Anyway, there are plenty more examples, but you get the idea. The point is that I’ve done some stupid stuff – I hope my parents don’t read this.
Now, the things I just mentioned all happened over 17 years ago before I became a Christian. That means thatthe statute of limitations has run out and these events are now part of my “testimony.” Now, I can safely share them knowing that God gets the glory for saving a dirt bag like me. Even so, there are plenty of stupid things I’ve done as a Christian too. Trust me, if God rewarded us for our good behavior and punished us for the bad stuff, I would not have a successful ministry, a house, a wife and three kids. I’d be dead. I’m a firm believer in God’s grace, simply out of practical experience. My mentor, Steve Brown, has a list of 10 stupid things Christians do to mess up their lives. He also has a CD album by that name and he wrote a book titled, A Scandalous Freedom, which is based on those same 10 stupid things.
HERE’S THE LIST: • We think of God as either a child abuser, away on vacation, or Santa Claus instead of looking to Jesus to find out what God is really like. • We are obsessed with getting better instead of with God’s forgiveness. • We forget the gospel and sacrifice the joy that sets us free. • We wear masks instead of being authentic. • We put our leaders on pedestals and thereby demean ourselves.
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• We demonize our enemies instead of acknowledging their humanity. • We live in fear. • We avoid the reality of pain. • We define ourselves by our failures instead of God’s love. • We surrender the freedom for which Jesus has set us free.
For many Christians, that’s probably not the mental list we would have made for ourselves. We might have come up with a list more like this one: • Watching porn – if you’re a girl, insert watching “The
Bachelor.” • Skipping church too many times. • Not tithing. • Not reading your Bible regularly. • Not selling everything and giving it to the poor.
Am I right or am I right? The reason we thought up items on the second list is probably because of the second item on the first list – and perhaps a few others. Here’s the point of Steve’s teaching on the CD album and in his book: Jesus has come to set us free and we mess up our lives by preferring our prisons. We should probably define “freedom” at this point. Basically, free means free. We’re free to live according to God’s standards and we’re free to sin. It means that if we don’t do what God says, He will still love us; and if we do what God says, He won’t love us any more. That’s because our acceptability is based on faith in Jesus’ finished work, not on our goodness or lack thereof. If we dispute this, we drive a stake in the heart of the gospel. Paul explains, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). He also adds, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). There are some who say that the freedom mentioned in that verse is freedom from sin. It certainly means that, but if it doesn’t also include the freedom to sin, then it’s not real freedom at all. We may allow that we’re saved by grace, but think we keep our salvation by busting our butts. But that’s not what scripture such as the letter to the Galatians, tells us. It’s difficult to read specific passages like Galatians 3:1-3 and not get this.
• Being a Democrat – if you’re Glenn Beck. • Being a Republican – if you’re Jim Wallace. • Cussing, drinking, smoking, dancing, going to
movies, etc. • Not praying enough. • Watching porn – if you’re a girl, insert shopping.
Does all of that bother us? It should. God’s ways are not our ways. Does it make us want to go out and sin? If we’re Christians, it should not. Why? It’s because of the key to the message of freedom, which both Brown and I teach: The only people who get any better are those who know that if they don’t get any better, God will still love them anyway. Don’t like that answer? How’s trying really hard working out for you? If obsessing on getting better worked, we’d all be Mother Theresa. It’s the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). It’s God’s amazing unconditional love and the resulting freedom that compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14). If we don’t start with freedom, we will screw up our lives! We will never achieve the obedience we so badly desire if we obsess on our goodness. Instead, we are called to obsess on His goodness toward us in order to be transformed into the image of the Beloved. So now that I’m a Christian, I’m free to do all kinds of stupid things and God won’t love me any less. I might mess up my life or even kill myself, but I’m free. Does that make me want to drop acid and take a spin on a jet ski? Nope. My heart’s desire is to follow the One who loved me enough to set me free to go wherever I want. I don’t expect a reward or anything, just the joy of faithfulness and walking with God. He set you free too! Now what? I say embrace the freedom and stop messing up your life.
GM : 15
THE TOOL BOX
BETTER THAN AN ENERGY DRINK
When my little brother was 14, he got in a fight with the parents and ran away from home …in the family Ford Explorer …without a license …on the Interstate. In some way I cannot fathom, he fell asleep at the wheel while driving. The Explorer flipped and he ended up with a broken collarbone, but otherwise unscathed. There must be some truth to the adage about God protecting the young and foolish, but what amazes me most about that story is how my brother could fall asleep. If the adrenaline rush of stealing a car, running away from home, driving – for the very first time – without a license, on the Interstate, no less, won’t keep you awake at the wheel, will anything? It’s hard enough to stay awake during a long, boring drive during the day, but driving at night is exponentially more difficult. If they could only bottle that sensation and sell it to insomniacs! In a national poll conducted by Harvard Medical School in 2009, 54% of people admitted to driving while drowsy and 28% said they have actually fallen asleep. Another study estimated that up to 60% of accidents could have a sleepy driver at fault. We don’t want to contribute to these stats, but short of not driving at night, what can we do? Let’s review a few things which can help keep us awake, but should not counted on during a long drive: THE RADIO – Even blasting your very least favorite kind of music. COLD AIR – Even windows down in the dead of winter. CAFFEINE – Yes, even Red Bull. Your body can build a tolerance to caffeine. CHEWING GUM – And you could wake up with it in your hair! BRINGING A PET – Seeing your animal sleeping will make you jealous! TOOTHPICKS – It is possible to fall to sleep even with your eyes open.
by Donna Lee Schillinger
There are some things which do work, at least, more frequently. Honestly, these next suggestions may not be foolproof either, but they are the most effective advice I can offer as an experienced nodder: DEEP CONVERSATION – a trip never goes so quickly and effortlessly as when you’re engaged in a meaningful conversation. Take a friend along who will commit to staying awake with you. EAT AND DRINK – this obviously has some drawbacks, namely necessitating pit stops and lengthening the trip, and it cannot be done constantly on a long trip, but you can use it to spot jolt you back into alertness. Be sure not to over-sugar yourself because that can cause drowsiness when the blood sugar drops again quickly about 20 minutes after eating. Along these lines, country music radio personalities Big D and Bubba recently polled listeners on this topic and one tip offered multiple times from truck drivers was: drink orange juice. They reported that OJ refreshed them mentally without the crash effect. LISTEN TO AN AUDIOBOOK – this strategy has never failed me. The story engages my mind and the time and miles speed by unnoticed. Be sure the subject is of a high interest to you; a boring book could lull you to sleep. PULL OVER AND REFRESH – this strategy will make the trip take longer, but better to lose some time and save your life than the other way around. Think it’s dangerous to pull over on the side of the road and try to nap for 15 or 20 minutes? It may not be the best way, but I doubt it can compete with 1,500 deaths and 40,000 injuries annually that driving while drowsy causes. That’s it. It’s a short list and nothing very inventive, which is why your very best bet is to take proactive measures by avoiding driving alone at night. Proverbs 3:21 says we should preserve sound judgment and discernment and they will be life for us. Plan your trips prudently: rest well before a trip, keep driving time in any one day to a reasonable amount, travel during daylight hours, and enlist a faithful friend to share the ride.
GM : 16
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