Open The Blinders

2 Corinthians 5:16

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!

One of the biggest things I have been challenged with this year is how I view others. How I view the stranger I walk by in the store, the cashier at the checkout, the random person driving by, and just about every individual I encounter. What I noticed was, how my attitude toward people changes depending on where I am. At church it’s easy to be loving and welcoming, but outside of church, it’s so easy to assume the worst about everyone. It’s easy to forget that they, just like myself, are a child a God.

The first time I was convicted of this was while listening to the song ‘Ever Be’ when the line, “Let Your praise ever be on my lips” played. I thought about how that would effect my relationships, strangers on the street, the cashier, the person driving by, etc. That’s when I began to realize, that everyone is a child of God, and everyone is loved by Him. It’s my job to be intentional with others and show them that love that Christ first gave me.

And it’s hard.

What’s easy is to forget about the strangers at the store, to walk by them without a second thought, to go on with the day rushing to the next thing. It’s the unspoken rule to not talk to strangers in public, we all act as if we want to be left to our own regards and people are just an expensive you can’t afford to spend time on. I know I’m guilty of it.

But Christ keeps reminding me, “See that person, yup, I love them. See that one, yup, I love them too. That one over there, yup, that’s my child as well.” I believe it’s not only our job to stop evaluating others from a human point of view, but to go a step further and start evaluating others from Christ’s point of view.

The story of the cross is not a story about Jesus, but rather a story about how much God loves us and what He will do to reach each and everyone of us. Loving others is a blessing that we get to be apart of. And at times, yes it’s hard, you just want to do your own thing. But when we can take a minute to step back, and allow God to work in us, to allow God to let us view others the way He views them, we allow love to come into us. And love covers a multitude of wounds. Not just others wounds, but even your own.

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (Emphasis Mine)

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

We’ve been given this task of reconciling people to Christ, we are Christ’s ambassadors, we speak for Christ.

I guess, what I am wondering is this, what would happen if we would open up our eyes and heart, to see everyone you see, everywhere you see them, as Christ sees them. There’s so many people who are hurting, who are just slipping through the cracks. I can’t even imagine what a simple smile, or hello could do for them. What if you were more courteous to the cashier or server, then they are to you? They might be trying to sell you a product, or gain your favor for a large tip, but you have the opportunity to give them God’s gift. How much greater is that?

I think because we are not getting persecuted everyday, being killed, that we forget how great of a message and how important of a message we have.

Let go of the binders and share the light with all.

The dream.

The other night I had a dream. No, not the Martin Luther King Jr. kind of dream. But a dream nonetheless that has left me pondering since.

But before I share my dream, I need to first give some history of my dreams. For years I would dream dreams of me fighting in battles, saving peoples lives. The first time this happen, in my dream I was on a raft full of people in stormy waters (however it was also parked in a dock, cause it’s a dream) and on this raft we were going out to war. I did my best to blend into the crowd on the raft so that I would not have to participate in the battle. But then, a real life coworker was on the shipping dock and whispered to himself, aren’t you suppose to be a christian? Since it was a dream, I heard what he said and it hit me hard. I jumped to the front of the raft took control of the helm, directed us out to war and also took control of the 50 cal that just happen to appear.

End of 1st dream.

I woke up from that dream realizing that as a christian, we have a war to fight with this world and we can’t waste our time blending in. For the next few years I would always have dreams that I was some sort of super hero saving peoples lives, occasionally I would forget how to use my powers but by the end of the dream, I would survive and have saved lives.

This continued until  I enlisted in the army. During basic training I quit having this dreams, actually I simply quit remembering my dreams all together. Here and there I would remember, but none of them were ever as cool as my battle dreams.

But the other night, I had a dream. It was a war dream. I was placed in a battle with my current army unit. It was us verses some kind of aliens. Everyone had a rifle but me. I was scared out of my mind. I noticed others had picked up some of the enemies rifles, it brought me a moment of hope thinking I could do the same. Nothing, I couldn’t find a single one.

I was scared and weaponless.

Then 4 of us lined up behind a door, about to clear a room. Still without a weapon. But our plans stopped as the enemy through a grenade at us. I managed to escape the blast, but as I turned back I turned around to be directly facing an enemy, holding my buddy, while the enemies rifle was facing directly at me. I feared for my life. He took one shot, but I dodged, took a second and I dodged again. He ran out of bullets and begin to reload a new magazine. I took this opportunity to charge him and steal his rifle out of his hands as he was fumbling. I ran toward him, my head was inches from the barrel of his rifle. He was fully reloaded with his hand on the trigger. I had full confidence in myself that I would be able to grab his barrel and swipe it out his hands. I grabbed it, but he over powered me, the barrel lowered to my stomach. I thought, is this it? Is this end of me? He pressed the trigger. I was hit square to the chest. The blast woke me up.

After I had collected myself when I woke, I thought about the dream and was quickly reminded of the spirtual battle that is constantly going on around us. We can’t see it. But we often feel the effects of it.

What I realized is how stupid it is for us to try to wrestle with the world, to wrestle with the enemy when we aren’t even properly equipped. I was brought back to Ephesians 6. What was I missing? A weapon. The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

We need to equip ourselves with the knowledge of the Word of God. The enemy is crafty, he’s not something we can beat on our own. Without God’s Word, we have no chance.

The dream has left me wondering, am I equipped? Where does my confidence lie? In my own hands, or in the hands of my Creator? Am I carrying Gods Sword, or my own?

Just starting typing…

(fyi, wrote this with eyes close, and without double checking errors. & it was more of a brain dump)

We as a society have learned to receive everything. We have been accustomed to having things down for us. WE have automatic sinks so that we don’t have to turn the faucet on. We go to coffee shops because we don’t want to make our own coffee for much cheaper. We go to fast food chains because it’s to much work to make our own food, that tastes better, is better for you, and cheaper. If the remote isn’t near us, we won’t get up to change the channel. Sometimes we will be hungry, but to lazy to get up. We’d gladly take it if it was served to us, but since it is not, we’ll pass. Not only that, but it accumulates over with how we want instant results. We want to look good without working out or eating healthy. We want to have money without having to do the work. We want to became great, without having to put in the work. We want to get better without taking the time for ask for help, we expect others to come help us. I’m extremely guilty of this myself. I’d much prefer to be served than to serve. Now of course I won’t tell others that, but that is naturally who I am. I think we are all guilty of this to an extent. We want greatness, but we are to lazy to put in the work. We want something, but won’t seek after it unless someone us does it for us. We look to be served.

More examples: We want a clean house, but we won’t pick up after ourselves. We expect someone else to. I’ve noticed that some guys won’t even flush a urnal if it isn’t an automatic flush. We dream of the places we want to go, we ‘pin’ the things we want to make, do, and/or eat, but we usually don’t put in the effort to make those dream comes true. But we get jealous of those on youtube who have worked their butts off to be able to live our dreams.

Now here’s an anomaly.

Jesus Christ came into the world to serve, not to be served.

Matthew 20:28

 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,and to give his life as a ransom for many.

I really feel like that defies everything that we’ve sorta become. It’s not that the world told us we are to be served. But over the years we’ve sorta come to expect others to serve us. But in reality, we aren’t worth being served. What have you done as in individual that makes you more important than the next person, especially so important that you should be served?

The only person worth serving is Christ, but despite that, He came to serve us. Humbling. With that in mind, it begs to ask the question, how can we serve others? In the littlest of things, in the biggest of things, how can we serve others? How can we humble ourselves before others?

John 13:5-6

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus washed His disciples feet. That’s gross in and off it self, but considering they didn’t have as good of hygiene as we do today, and that they were sandals, their feet are GROSS.  What does it look like today to follow the example that Jesus set. What does it look like for us to wash the feet of others? It means, no one is to good for us, doesn’t it? No one is below us. Even if you’re the best, you’re not.

For me, I think sometimes I try to dismiss others because I don’t like how they are, or I think to be blunt with my thoughts, that I am better than them for one reason or another. Only because they are different than me, and I can’t seem to normalize our differences?

James 2:3-4

If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

I think again, that’s why James is talking about here in James 2. For whatever we like to favor some people over others because we rate them as a better person. But those who we dismiss, are still people. People who still have the same needs and wants that the rest of us have.

To pull this all together to an end, I believe as christians, we need to intentionally seek out ways that we can serve others, even to the point of humbling ourselves and perceiving our self image to not be as good as others, and that their should be no discrimination in who we serve.

Pride

Proverbs 8:13

To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
    I hate pride and arrogance,
    evil behavior and perverse speech.

A while back I started doing blog posts inspired from the book of proverbs. Verse by verse I was going. Eventually all the verses just started to become the same thing over and over again. I lost a lot of inspiration. In fact, it’s been since March 14th of last year since I last posted about Proverbs (view here). I have kept checking back on this next verse, reading it across almost every translation just to find some inspiration. I just honestly haven’t wanted to write about this verse, or any of the rest in the chapter. It’s all just become the same thing over and over again.

But alas, today I am pushing myself through it because sometimes with your relationship with God, and with others, you just have to keep pushing through despite how you feel.

To fear the Lord is to hate evil. Looks like we can categorize pride, arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech under evil. How many of you hate evil? How many of you hate talking to someone and they start to get prideful, nothing they say is wrong, they have all the best stories, their way is always right, etc? Or how about arrogant people? Like trying to talk with Tony Stark, or Steve Jobs for example? Talking to people who are full of themselves is the worst. I think it’s clear to say we all hate this kind of evil.

But what about when it is in yourself? It’s easy to recognize it is within others, but what about yourself? Are you/can you be prideful or arrogant? Do you find yourself to be more right than wrong? Looking honestly at past situations, why do you think that is? Where you truly right, or was pride getting in the way from you admitting your wrong?

Maybe pride is stopping you from opening up to others. You like to control how others see you, you show others an edited version of you, but not the raw footage.

But to fear the Lord is to hate evil and pride and arrogance and evil behavior and perverse speech.

What is it in your own life that you are failing to recognize, but you can so easily recognize in others?

Raising Holy Hands to God

1 Timothy 2:8

NLT

 In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.

The first time I noticed this passage was a while back while reading it from the NLT version. What really stood out to me was that men should raise their hands during times of worship to pray to God. For what? I had supposed it was to pray for the people and that their hearts may be opened to God’s greatness and that all would worship Him as one body.

It stood out to me mostly because, well I am not a hand raiser. Why? I’ve never seen how raising my hands make me any closer to God as to not raising my hands. I’ve always thought it was a personal thing. Some people raise hands, some people dance, some people sing, some people run around, some people digest it all inside. Everyone is different. Everyone has their own way of worship and I am personally not one to conform to what everyone is doing just because. I need a reason.

Shortly after I read this passage I heard a sermon by Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch (or ChurchOnline). His message was about worship and he made an interesting point about raising hands in worship. It basically went like this: If you’re surrounding yourself, wether to the police or in a game, don’t we surrender with our arms in the air? Or how about when we receive victory, let’s say a touchdown, goal, etc. Don’t we also celebrate by placing our arms in the air in celebration?

Now, what is the point of worship? Isn’t it to surrender our lives to Christ while also proclaiming victory in His presence?  It makes me think a little, but the idea of it just seems silly. But then I think of 2 Samuel 6:21-22

.. will celebrate before the Lord.  I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes..

David knows his dancing is silly before the Lord, but He doesn’t care, in fact he says he will get even more silly. Why? Because his love for God is greater than his own pride/ego. That’s interesting to think about.

But there’s more. I looked at several other versions of 1 Timothy 2:8, and the NLT was the only version to use the word, “worship.”

1 Timothy 2:8

NLT

 In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.

ESV

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

NIV

Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.

NKJV

 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;

MSG (8-10)

Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray—not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God. And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.

All these other versions say “everywhere.” Paul is telling us to raise our hands in prayer everywhere, it’s not just in the place of worship, it’s everywhere(well actually worship can be any and everywhere). I think that is pretty radical. For me, it’s a challenging idea.

Pray with your hands lifted to the Father.

That’s what I want to leave this post to be challenged by. Just once, try it. I know I will.

Why? Well cause I can’t imagine any other idea what Paul would have meant in raising holy hands to God. Maybe it was just a figure of speech, but maybe there is also some kind of power of lifting your hands, free from angry, free from pride and embracing in the silliness.

I don’t now, but I am willing to try.

What Dust is Collecting Over Your Window?

Lamentations‬ ‭2‬:‭18-19‬

Cry aloud before the Lord, O walls of beautiful Jerusalem! Let your tears flow like a river day and night. Give yourselves no rest; give your eyes no relief. Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord. Lift up your hands to him in prayer, pleading for your children, for in every street they are faint with hunger.

That’s pretty intense if you think about it. A little back story: basically Jerusalem has committed sins against the Lord(what a surprise). Because of their sins, the Lord has removed His mercy from their land and now destruction is upon them. Jerusalem is being attacked, but it doesn’t matter how much effort they put into fighting back, they can’t win because the Lord has removed His protection from them. The Lord even broke down His own temple in Jerusalem. The prophets are no longer receiving visions from the Lord.

It seems Jerusalem has done some pretty terrible things against the Lord, perhaps maybe even more terrible than anything you’ve ever done, then again perhaps not. Whatever it was, it made God furious.

There’s two things I can’t help but notice in these verses though:

1) Jerusalem is still referred to as “beautiful”

So despite the many sins of Jerusalem, it is still referred to as “beautiful.” I just can’t imagine facing anyone’s wrath, but yet in the middle of it, you’re still referred to as beautiful. Jerusalem was/is God’s chosen nation, chosen people. Even in His wrath, He still loves them.

2)  There’s forgiveness

This one might be easy to miss. Despite the misery Jerusalem is in, they are still being told to offer their hearts back to God. They committed some pretty terrible sins against God, is currently experiencing His wrath, but somehow they are still being offered forgiveness through repentance and committing their hearts back to God.

This all relates back to us. In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul uses some pretty crazy words to describe God’s relationship to us. He used words such as:

He choose us (v.4). Holy and blameless (v.4). Predestined us for adoption (v.5). Predestined (repeated in v.11). Sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (v.13). 

As Jerusalem was God’s chosen people, we all are now God’s chosen people through faith in Christ Jesus. Through faith, we are all His beautiful children, and that’s the way He is going to refer to both you and I, despite what we do. Through faith, we have forgiveness of sins. Galatians reminds us over and over again that we are no longer slaves of the law, but slaves of Christ. It’s all about Him. It’s not about us. It’s not about what you’ve done, are doing, and will do, it’s about what He has done for us. Nothing can change His love for us.

I believe the catch, if there is one, is this: the more we chose to live for the world, the less of God we will see in our life. I heard this beautiful illustration of a glass window the other day. Sunlight was trying to enter the room, but because of the filthiness of the window, the sunlight couldn’t reach into the room. Dust had collected and layered itself over the window. That dust is our sins if we let it continue in our lives. Your sins are forgivable, but they still leave a mark on us. The strongest impact is that it gets in the way of letting Christ’s light into our heart. The more we sin, the less we feel God. That’s not to say if you aren’t feeling God, it is because of some sin in your life. But often, because of sin, we separate ourselves from God. It’s the consequence of the choice we make when we sin. Our sin creates a filter over the window and that changes the effect of God’s light into our hearts.

But there is always forgiveness, your window can always be cleaned, and not just cleaned, but be made new, and bigger!

No matter the guilt you are feeling, even if it is greater, or less then the guilt we see in Lamentations 2, God can restore your heart. That’s exciting. We can’t be to far gone for Him to heal us.

You’re still beautiful. You’re still forgiven.

Isaiah 1:18

“Come now, let’s settle this,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
    I will make them as white as wool.

Isaiah 43:25

“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake
    and will never think of them again.

Micah 7:18 -19

Where is another God like you,
    who pardons the guilt of the remnant,
    overlooking the sins of his special people?
You will not stay angry with your people forever,
    because you delight in showing unfailing love.
Once again you will have compassion on us.
    You will trample our sins under your feet
    and throw them into the depths of the ocean!

Ephesians 1:7

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Whatcha Talkin’ About?

Ephesians 5:12

It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret.

What does this mean to you? How in your life have you gone against it? Why do you go against it? Is it funny? Does it entertain you? Does it feel good to talk about it? Does it make you feel like a better person cause you don’t participate in these activities? Why do you think Paul even says this? Why is this important?

Basically, what things do you think Paul is talking about? and do you talk about them and how would you justify talking about (whatever it is/these things) to Jesus?

Matthew 15:18

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.

Proverbs 21:23

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.