My Attempt at Vulnerability

For me, it was a prideful and self-obsessed attempt at being better, which can be as offensive to God as gossip itself. When God pressed in on my sin, he wasn’t saying, “do better,” he was saying “you need me.” Though I knew Jesus’ blood was enough to save me, I wasn’t believing on him to continue sanctifying me.

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The Gift of Suffering

Perhaps the most important question within religious discussions is the question of suffering. When we discuss this with non-theists, we can engage in a why would discussion. As in, “why would an all-powerful all-loving God allow his people to suffer?” And while these conversations do happen amongst Christians, the more pertinent question for Christians is a what question, mainly, “What should a Christian do in the face of great suffering?” To answer this question properly, we have to turn to Scripture.

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The Resurrection: Is the Fact that Women Found Jesus' Tomb Empty Important?

A claim that all of the canonical gospel writers make is that women, Mary Magdalene in particular, found the tomb that Jesus was buried in empty (Mk 16:1-8, Mt 28:5-6, Lk 24:1-7, Jn 20:1-2). This discovery by women and subsequent report to the disciples might seem insignificant, however, the fact that the gospel writers recorded this supports the historicity of the claim. As Philosopher and Theologian William Lane Craig writes, “Probably no other factor has proved so persuasive to scholars of the empty tomb's historicity as the role of the female witnesses.” Simply put, the women finding the empty tomb is a vital piece of the narrative, especially for modern scholarship.

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Do You Ever Feel Far From God?

One of the more difficult parts of being a Christ-follower is dealing with doubt. A few weeks ago in a group I lead, we talked about doubt: what it looks like, how to deal with it, etc. One of the group members was quite surprised that I (one of his pastors) struggled with doubt. Now, if you know me, you know that doubt has been a constant struggle of mine since becoming a Christian. Doubt has been an unfortunate and dark part of my journey with Jesus. More days than not, I struggle to know that I am a part of God’s family. My fear sets in and I dwell on the possibility that I might not truly be saved. It’s scary, and not fun, but it’s real. 

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How Are We Supposed to Love Our Neighbors?

One of the more intimidating things about reading the Bible is there are (or seem to be) a lot of commands about how we ought to live. It can feel overwhelming thinking of what God might expect of you. The ways in which we can sin are numerous. The beautiful thing about the Bible, however, is that since it is God’s word, he knows the inclusion of his standard for us (perfection) would need simplification, and this is where Jesus comes in.

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How Can You Be More Like Jesus Today?

When you hear or read stories of Christians of a different time, do they invoke in you a sense of disappointment for your life? Not that you need to do better - but that you wish you could have a faith like theirs? Does the boldness of Martin Luther, the courage of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or the steadfastness of Saint Paul make you wish you lived a life more similar to theirs? It’s not hard to look on the lives of these believers and wish you had similar traits of theirs. Of course, humanity has significantly advanced from the plague-ridden times of Luther or the reign of the Nazis Bonhoeffer faced down, but do you, like me, sometimes wish you could live during the time of the reformation? Not only to witness the amazing events that took place, but also to be a part of the changing of the world? Do you think that the adverse and downright terrifying circumstances these men lived in would spur you on to have a more authentic and deep relationship with Jesus?

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I Struggle to Sleep Before Christmas. Do You?

One of my favorite memories of my childhood was Christmas morning. I remember being so excited the night before that no matter how hard I tried to fall asleep, it would be a seemingly impossible task. My brother and I would try to watch boring movies, put headphones in to limit distractions, go to bed at 6 pm, and on and on. They never worked, we were always far too excited to go to sleep. While I do remember some of the gifts I received on Christmas mornings, the most vivid memories are the ones of the nights before. Now, years removed from waking up Christmas morning wondering what gifts I’d receive, I anticipate Christmas morning for my kids. I can’t wait to give them their gifts and see their reactions. But, I don’t struggle to fall asleep. That extreme anticipatory feeling is reserved for other future events. 
For instance, now, my anniversary with my wife causes the same feelings and inability to sleep that Christmas mornings caused. Each year, we go out to a nice dinner – sometimes out of town – and get the opportunity to reflect on our marriage and what a gift it has been. I look forward to this evening probably more than any other. The same feeling I had before Christmas morning as a child exists the night before our anniversary plans. I struggle to sleep and attempt to ease the process via the same methods (I haven’t learned much, apparently). I try to use my headphones and listen to music; I try to read myself to sleep, I try to make our room pitch-black dark, and on and on. These methods, just like in my childhood, do not work. So, I typically go to the living room and watch TV until it becomes far later than I hoped I’d stay up.

What do you anticipate? What is it that you so look forward to that you can’t sleep? For some, it’s vacation, for others, it’s work (really), and for others, it might be time with their grandkids. No matter what it is, we all know the feeling. And, this feeling is a gift from God. God – in his infinite wisdom – has created us with excitement for certain things. And, of course, his ultimate goal is for us to have that anticipation for him. But, this is difficult, right?

It was just a few days ago, in my reading of Romans, that I came across a short passage – half of a verse actually – that addressed this feeling and where it ought to find its place.

In Romans 13:11b, Paul writes, 
…For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.

That’s it. In the ESV, it is merely 12 words, but packs so much meaning that it has profoundly challenged me to rethink the way in which I approach anticipation. The words aren’t in-and-of themselves new to most people. Anyone who knows of a future event also knows that with each passing moment, the event is that much closer. Tomorrow is now a second closer, a minute closer, an hour closer, and so on; this is an obvious part of life. For us Christians, we know heaven is closer and closer with each day, but why is it we don’t anticipate it – and our salvation being complete – the same way we anticipate other earthly things? Of course, to anticipate time with one’s spouse, family, or other similar events, isn’t at all bad. In fact, God made us to anticipate these events. However, he also made us to anticipate him and to look forward to time with him. 

I want this feeling. I want to recognize that with each passing day, I am that much closer to entering glory. And, though I want this, I’m not sure how to get to the point where my anticipation is not only directed toward earthly goods but – more importantly – toward God. I want to get to the point where my excitement is overflowing for things like:

Reading his word
Praying to him
Fasting for a more profound dependency on him
Singing to him
Serving him

I’m not sure how I will get to the place where my anticipation is directed at him each night, but I am going to try everything I can to get to that place. My first step is to go to sleep each night thinking about my morning routine, which consists of coffee, prayer, study, prayer, writing and potentially more coffee. I want to get to a place where the anticipation of that time with God makes it difficult to sleep. 

Each night, I’m going to pray a prayer like this:

God, my father, turn my heart toward you. I can’t wait to spend time with you in the morning. I can’t wait to direct my mind and my actions toward you as the first thing I do. I want to anticipate you more than I anticipate anything else in my life. I want the last and first thing I think about each day to be you. Help me to desire you above all else, in Jesus’ name, Amen. 

What are some practices which you think might help you to anticipate God?

List them in the comments below! 

 

 

A Conversation That Changed My Life

Let’s be honest. The majority of us – Christians – find it difficult to strip away some of the sins in our lives. In fact, many of us, even though we know we are a new creation, are still trying to deal with the sins of our former life. We know we’re supposed to be free, but freedom seems elusive. Like heaven, freedom from our sins is a promise we believe in, but aren’t sure what it’s really like. We know we’re supposed to live free because Jesus has set us free, but for some reason, we can’t break free. We know we’re supposed to “lay aside every weight and sin” (Hebrews 12:1) and that Jesus calls us to live free and not as slaves to sin (Galatians 5:1), and on and on. Why, though, is freedom so elusive? Why does it seem so hidden?

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