Resting Regularly

So currently it is 12:55 A.M. and I am tired. I make poor choices on a regular basis when it comes to sleep. I willingly give up time for sleep to other things, usually hanging out with friends. I know this is a poor choice in that the rest of the day/week I feel the effects of not getting the appropriate amount of sleep.

Some effects include: lowered immune system, lowered attention span, lowered mental awareness.

Today’s passage is Matthew 11:25-30,

At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I believe the parallel of Physical sleep carries over to the Spiritual. We must regularly come to Christ for Spiritual “rest” so that we may be “sober minded” ready to the on the challenges ahead. Much like Jesus told the Women at the well, “Keep coming to me”. A continual process of restoration.

The Alternative of never finding rest in Christ regularly is the same as the Physical. Our defenses are lessened against the attacks of satan (Lowered immune system). It is harder for us to focus on God throughout the day and to hear what He has for us (lowered attention span). We are less aware of, not only spiritual attacks but, spiritual opportunities, as well (Lowered awareness). All-in-all lack of Spiritual rest leaves us in a vulnerable and ineffective place in the kingdom of God.

So how do we Rest in Christ? Great question! The answer is in verse 29!

“Take My yoke upon  you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

So here we are called to two different things for the purpose of finding rest in Christ.

  1. “Take my yoke upon you”. We are clearly called here to serve God and follow His lead even if we feel as cow do without complaint of the purpose of the work but trust in the Master to lead correctly.
  2. “and learn from me” We are called to learn from Christ! Much like Mary did when Martha was off cleaning and preparing for Christ. We are called to sit at the feet of Jesus, sometimes rejecting the culture norms for the purpose of a deeper relationship with Jesus.

So let us pursue regular rest as we go about our spiritual life. Not rejecting the Service or Instruction of the Lord in and through our lives. And let us rest confidently in the person of Jesus Christ and what He did for us, to God’s glory.

Reach out to your Rest,

Just a COG

Are you smelly?

Do you remember the smell of your favorite baked good? Be it Cinnamon rolls, Oatmeal Raisin cookies, or brownies. Do you like homemade or do you have that special bakery that hits your spot? Are you a quantity or quality type person? Would you rather that bag of store bought cookies or would you rather one homemade lemon bar made by your Best Friend’s Grandmother?

It never ceases to amaze me how extreme people can get over baked goods. I can appreciate most baked goods however you so much as mention “oatmeal raisin” around some of my friends and “prepare for war”. It doesn’t even matter if it is just your taste they are up to debate you scientifically, philosophically, with signed confessions of 6 people why oatmeal raisin cookies are the worst ever.

I love the imagery Paul uses in His letter to the church in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.  For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

Here is the beauty of this. God has led us in Triumph by His Holy Spirit in Christ for the purpose of making us smelly with the Knowledge of God. God is like a baker who has taken us as unformed dough drying out in the world and formed us and molded us with the Hands of Christ, the Seasoning of the Holy Spirit, baked in the Fires of trials to be the Most Smelly baked Goods ever! WE MUST BE SMELLY!!

Here is the catch with all this. Pardon the parody but the Dough does not say to the Baker what to make of it. (Romans 9:20-21) And God may indeed make you into something which is pleasent and smells of “life leading to life” to some but to others you smell like “death leading to death”. Here is the key, regardless of response to the smell we are called to be smelly! A smell does not pick and choose who it approaches or who it wafts to, NO! A smell spreads from the source to whoever is nearby. The closer the person the more they receive the smell, which brings out two important points.

  1. Those closest to the smell should react either positively or negatively more than those far away. Those, whom you smell like death to, may reject you more so the closer you are to them (Family, friends, relatives). And those, whom you smell like life to, may come to the source more often than others.
  2. Who are we to deny the Smell of the Knowledge of God to someone? Their reaction is between them and God. Our call is to be smelly to whomever would open their nose to us.

So I encourage you to submit to God’s baking in your life and in every way go forth and Be Smelly! Spread the smell of the Knowledge of God! May news of our Great Baker spread across our communities, schools and workplaces!

Be Smelly!

Just a COG

 

 

Cookie Cred: Silo’s Bakery in Waco, TX

Taxes!

Tax Day!!! At 10:29 P.M. I finished my taxes! Cutting it close? Many of my friends would agree with you and join in asking me what I was thinking putting it off so long! Honestly? I don’t like paying taxes. SURPRISE!!! And I am a recovering procrastination addict.

As taxes came to a close I was thinking about what I could write about and I remembered a really cool sermon I heard while at a college camp not a month ago. So here we go! The passage we will be reading is Matthew 22:15-22

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way. Matthew 22:15-22

So what is the point of all this? It seems fairly straight forward. However something caught my attention. When the Pharisees approached Jesus they said, “We know you are true, you teach the Way of God in truth, nor do you care about anyone, for you do not regard the person of men.” WHAT?? Sounds like an insult hidden behind a seemingly respectful approach. “Well you tell the truth, and you don’t care about anyone.” WOW!

So I started doing a little digging. I went on BlueLetterBible.com to use their tools. They have this cool feature where you can look up the original Greek and Hebrew used and what it meant in the original language. So the word the Pharisees used for the “Person” of men in Greek is “prosōpon” Pronounced (pro’-sō-pon). This word references the “face of man”, or a man’s “countenance”, or (and this is my favorite translation) the appearance one presents by his wealth or property, his rank or low condition.

So basically the Pharisees are saying, “We know you don’t care how a man presents himself but that you teach the Truth so we have a question for you.”

So, moving on from word study, the story continues and they ask Jesus whether they should pay taxes or not (Please say no, please say no!) and Jesus responds, first by calling them out on their hypocrisy but then by addressing their question.. He asks them whose image or likeness is on the coinage and He then states simply, “Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and that which to God that belongs to God.”

So, growing up a classic pew-warming American “Christian”, I have always taken this as kind of a bummer response. I grumpily respond, “Okay God i’ll pay my taxes.” Wishing Jesus had been leading a governmental rebellion that would justify me not having to struggle, last minute (Self inflicted), to figure out my past year’s financial history. But I missed the whole point!

Jesus first asks whose image or likeness is on the coin. Then He continues to say that because of that image the coinage belonged to the one whose image it bore. Here is beautiful connection Jesus seems to be making for those who catch it. In Genesis 1:26a God says, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;”

We are image bearers . We as human beings bear the image of the Creator of the universe! And you know what that means? We belong to Him! And Here Christ clearly says, “Give God that which is God’s.” We belong to Him. We bear HIS image. And what a beautiful image it is!

So this tax day as you return to the government what belongs to the government remember to give to God that which belongs to God. Day by day, moment by moment. Give God your all, cause God gave His all to us. A beautiful gift and and an awesome image.

Happy Tax Day!

Just a COG

 

Rippling Reflection

So for those of you with the “Youversion” Bible app you know that today’s daily verse was Philippians 2:3-4 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Can you imagine living a life like this? This is humility at its finest. Notice that Paul does not say, “Now, by putting yourselves down lift others up.” Humility has almost nothing to do with ourselves. It doesn’t involve any verbal or emotional self abuse. It involves esteeming, or respecting, others better than ourselves. It has been said that humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. Paul kind of agrees with this but says it more like, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself it’s thinking better about others!”

The goal is not to get the focus OFF of yourself but it is to get your focus ON to others. And if that comes at the cost of a few less moments staring at the mirror or planning out your 12 steps to success, than may that be a joyful sacrifice in the pursuit of the second greatest commandment. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

And what is our motivation to fulfill what Paul commands in Philippians 2:3-4? Well he gives that motivation in the first two verses of the chapter. Philippians 2:1-2 “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

This is the beauty of the Love of God reflecting through His people in the lives of the Christian community via its individuals. May our lives be the ripples of Jesus’s love shown through His Day-to-day mercies, love, joy and fellowship. May these ripples resonate a beauty within us that reveals Christ’s love to the unbeliever and draw into unity the Body of Believers so that we may in One Mind, One accord, show that Same Love, that Christ showed us, to every soul we come in contact with.

This is our motivation. This is our challenge.

May God bless you as you seek to bring Him glory,

Just a COG

Measured Love

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21 (NKJV)

What a perfect day to talk about comprehending the measure of God’s Love. About 2000 years ago God came down in the weakest form, never sinned despite being tempted in every way, lived until His Mid-thirties and then suffered and died as if He was the worst of sinners. He paid our debt and took our punishment, bearing our sicknesses and our pains. He was tortured and executed by a people who prided themselves on being able to inflict the maximum amount of pain upon a living being. He called out for forgiveness for His murderers. He died with His mother and friends looking on. He was buried in a rich man’s tomb. And for many there the story ends.

However for us who know Him as Savior, Lord, Brother and Friend we know the story doesn’t end there. On the third day His tomb was found to be empty and that same day He appeared to many who loved Him. He proceeded to appear to more than 500 people at the same time. He then went to Heaven to sit at the Right hand of the Father until He calls us home. However, He promises in John 18:14  “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”. What a beautiful promise of His love and future return to bring us home. 

So for those of us who know His love I ask this simple question. Are you able to comprehend His love? I know for me it is hard. Ever since Summer Camp 2012 I have had an unanswered question that surfaces every now and then. “Why do you love me?” I have never received a solid answer. I can say with confidence however that I am rooted and grounded in His love for me today.

The most special moments in my life are when I in some small or large way have a moment of comprehension of His love. Well… maybe comprehension is the wrong word. The moments I am overtly aware of His love. These moments are overwhelming. Like this morning. I went to an early service at a church and was pleasantly surprised by my Best Friend sitting in a back pew and we were joined, not long after, by two young women who are as close as Sisters to us. This combined with the sweetest old couple sitting next to me and the old hymns we sang as the sun shone through the classic stain glass windows and the organ played. This whole scene played out and I honestly could have cried it was so beautiful. I had the overwhelming sense of being Loved by God. I was at a church that felt like home with a Family God had given me, with worship that brought me back to the simplicity of the love of a Child for His Father, all in order to worship and learn and celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and defeat of Death and payment for Sins. O what Love the Father has for Us.

Before I end this post I would like to address anyone who is not a Christian, who may by some chance, be reading this. Whether you believe in God or not, whether you are a good person or the worst sinner, whether you believe the Bible or not, God wants you to know this. He Loves you so much. You aren’t alone. He knows you completely and He loves you totally. He doesn’t ask that you be perfect because He knows you can’t be. He asks one thing. That you come to Him like a Child comes to His Father. He can hear you and He is not unaware of your life, your struggles and your pains.

Romans 10:9 says, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please contact me. I would love to talk with you, hear your story and hopefully be able to answer any questions you have or, God willing, help you grow closer to God, because He wants you and loves you even if you don’t want Him or love Him.

Happy Easter Everyone,

Just a COG

None Go With Me

“Though none go with me, still I will follow, no turning back, no turning back.”

This is a line from a famous song “I have decided to follow Jesus”. This song was based off of the passage of the Bible where Jesus calls Peter to follow Him. (John 21:20-22). When Peter inquires about Jesus’s purpose for another Disciple Jesus responds with a simply,

“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” John 21:22

 We are not promised companions in this life. We are called many times to work with other believers and work as a part within the “body of Christ”. However we are never promised to have any one solid companion other than Christ throughout our journey through life. This may show itself in a few different ways.

  1. We may be called, Like Paul was, to serve apart from those we desire to be with. In Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome he explains that he wanted to be with them but that God had called him elsewhere for the time being. It was not that Paul could not be used at the Church in Rome but that God had specifically called him elsewhere.
  2. We might also be called to stand up for what is right when everyone else says it is wrong. Some examples of this are Jonah (after he was spat up by the big fish), Caleb and Joshua (when everyone else was afraid of the inhabitants of the Promised land), and Lot (when the whole city was living in sexual sin).
  3. Lastly we may be called to follow our commitment to God even when we lose those we love. The best example of this I can think of is the Prophet Ezekiel. In Chapter 24 God tells Ezekiel,  “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes.” but then to add lemon juice to an open wound God continues to tell Ezekiel that he would not even be allowed to openly mourn for her but that he must continue to live life, as a seemingly insane person, as a picture lesson for Israel. This call can sometimes be the most painful and yet our response must be as Job said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away”. A humble response realizing that everything we have is from God and He can take it away, without reason, at any moment and still be just and good. 

No matter what God is calling you to or not calling you to one thing is made clear by these examples and this song. We are called into a very personal and beautiful relationship with God. We are apart of the body of Christ and called into a family of believers, yes. However, we are known completely by God and He speaks to us directly, knows us better than we know ourselves, and shows us our individual gifts and talents as He calls us into areas of His work that He especially designed us for. This purposeful relationship is so beautiful in its Simple Complexities.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

Soiled Souls

So recently I went on a trip to Texas and was able to catch some cool pictures with my camera. (Low key taking credit for my featured pictures) While I was in Texas I was texting friends back home. I have a few friends who stick out to me.

One, we’ll call Mr. P for now, is looking pretty hopeful as a Christian. He reads his Bible regularly, constantly has questions and has a heart to serve. He challenges me in all of these areas and his constant questions drive me to find answers or at least contemplate things I had never really thought of before. However, his one constant struggle seems to be fear or lack of assurance. Many times we’ll have massive block texts of theological debates over a passage of the Bible that makes him fear his salvation or what God thinks of him or if he actually loves God. We’ll come back to Mr. P.

Second, we have Mr. C. A promising believer who I personally witnessed his conversion or at least his recitation of the sinner’s prayer. Mr. C occasionally has questions and is constantly barraged by the struggles of his life and family which tear him down to moments of depression. In these moments he usually texts or calls me. I do my best to point him towards Christ and the Bible as the solution for each of his concerns and questions of what to do. He seems however to only ask for help so someone will listen to him and continues to turn to a bottle or a screen as a temporary sedative to his ever constant pain. We’ll come back to Mr. C as well.

Thirdly but not leastly, we have Mr. T. Mr. T is an acclaimed Christian with no signs of fruit or growth but fairly decent head knowledge. His pursuit of Christendom is merely a means to a publically admitted end. That end being a relationship. Not a marriage mind you, merely a dating relationship. Mr. T struggles with a lack of emotions and his only success in feeling anything has been found in relationships. His many failed suicide attempts have merely frustrated him and opened him to a twisted view of God and God’s “purpose” for him, which is seemingly malevolent. Now we have met our cast now for the story.

Our story is found in Luke 8:1-15. It is the story of the sower and the soil. I encourage you to read the whole parable but for now we shall talk about the interpretation of it. (Luke 8:11-15)

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.  Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.  Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. 

So where do our cast members fall in this line up? Well to my eyes I would say that Mr. T is on the path, Mr. C is of the rocky ground, and Mr. P is fighting with some thorns.

So what is the solution? How can Mr. T, C, and P come to be a good soil ready to receive and produce a crop so bountiful? Well first I’ll offer my original understanding and then I’ll offer an alternative I heard while traveling. (Also I am totally up for alternatives in the comments)

The way I understood this parable was that if we examine our lives and find ourselves to be of the hard soil then it is up to God to break us up (usually through some form of suffering) so that we can receive the seed. God is the gardener and must break the ground, drive away the birds and pull out the weeds. So in the Cases of Mr. T, C, and P I would pray that God might do whatever it takes to break them down for the purpose of growing a bountiful crop in them. (Option A)

The alternative I heard today is that we are responsible to break up our ground, pull out our weeds and drive off the birds from our life. We must do our best to bring before God a “Broken and contrite spirit” which is pleasing to God. And so in the Cases of Mr. T, C, and P I would reason with them and pray for them that they might do what they can to present to God soil ready for the harvest. (Option B)

Oddly enough this identified in me a double standard. I would pursue others with option A and then pursue my own life with Option B. As I sit and think about these options however I believe a third option arises. Much like a school test option C is “all of the above”. We can do everything we can to tear out the weeds, drive off the birds and bring a Broken and Contrite spirit before God but also we should be praying for His help since it is HIS seed, and HIS water and HIS gardening that will produce a crop in us. This allows us to work together with God and with our fellow Christian to prepare, maintain, and produce a crop bountiful and plentiful in order to give God our firstfruits.

Much Love,

Just a COG

Father Daughter Dancing

Recently I had the amazing opportunity to take an 8 year old girl from my Church to a Father Daughter Dance. The Girl’s father has been out of the picture for awhile and she lives with her Grandmother. Her Grandmother approached me at Church before Sunday School and asked me if I would be willing to take her to the dance. She explained that no prominent male figure in her life would be available and that it would mean a lot to her if I could take her. How could I say no? This opportunity to be there for an amazing Child of God was too amazing to pass up.

I am the youngest brother of two older sisters and I am single currently. I have expressed to God my desire to have a younger sister and eventually a daughter and wife. In this period of singleness He has blessed me with a position of brotherhood to three of my best friend’s little sisters, as well as this amazing opportunity to be a Father for a day. He is so good!

After cleaning myself up for the big night, I show up to her Grandmother’s house dressed in a Pink dress shirt and black vest (She told me on her birthday that Pink was her favorite color) and there she was in a beautiful blue dress. Here elementary school was two blocks away and so we did the most classy thing we could… we raced there on foot!! (She beat me by a long shot since I didn’t know where I was going)

After eating dinner with her best friend and her Father we proceeded to go get dessert, at which point she explained her favorite color was actually blue. After making a total mess with dessert and not eating all of her dinner we decided to go inside to “dance”. It didn’t take long for me to figure out she preferred playing Tag than dancing. Me and her best friend’s Father proceeded to play tag with her and her best friend throughout the dance occasionally talking and attempting to dance.

While her and her best friend were off chasing each other through the mass of Little Girls and Fathers dancing to “Gangnam Style”, me and her best friend’s Father had a good conversation. He explained to me that she was not his actual daughter nor was she officially “adopted”. Her biological Father maintained rights as Father but essentially didn’t want to do any of the work. But her “Step Dad” explained that her biological Father was missing out on the Best Daughter ever and the most special moments with her. This attitude blew me away. This man was willing to do all the work of a Father with none of the credit but simply the Love of a Daughter not officially his. Talk about love. It brought to my mind God’s love for us and how He has adopted us even though we often don’t even call Him Father but settle for “Step-Dad”. Yet He still Loves us. He still shows us the perfect example of a Father Loving His Child. Adopted or not.

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

“Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” John 14:23-24

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 5:9-10

 

An appropriate end to this Hallmark story began with the last dance. A beautiful song started and she agreed to dance with me as all the Daughters danced with their Fathers. It was a waltz. We swayed back and forth and spun each other a couple times, laughing as she struggled to turn me. The song was ending and all the Fathers were hugging their daughters, And then it happened… The worst smelling fart I have ever smelled. We both laughed as we quickly left the area and raced each other home to play dodgeball until it was time for me to head home.

This beautiful experience was a memory for both of us to cherish… and a smell to hopefully forget.