Saturday, March 23, 2013

You Can't Earn It

In the midst of writing down a list of what I have learned, I have decided to take a break and focus on one: There is nothing I can do to earn God's forgiveness. 

I've always thought that I truly believed this (at least for the past four years), but this statement, this never really hit me.  It never really sunk in.  I never really understood it.  Not until I began to study inductively the covenant made with Abraham.

I still don't fully understand it, but it at least shed some new light on my struggle with God's forgiveness.

Genesis 15 begins the covenant between God and Abram.  But before that, God makes His promise to him.

Genesis 12:2-3 says

"And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Three things are promised to Abram by God: children, a land, and a blessing.  He believed God and did whatever was asked of him for decades and decades.  But now in Genesis 15, he gets impatient with God because He promised him children yet he and his wife were still childless.  He asks God how he's supposed to know that God will keep His promise.  So God tells Abram to bring Him a heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon.  Abram cut them in half long ways and laid the halves against each other.  

This is the part that I always skipped over because I had no idea what it was talking about.  

Back then, this is how contracts were sealed.  It's called a blood covenant.  You would sacrifice these animals and as the blood from the animals would run together in the middle, the greater party of the contract would walk down the middle of the animals.  So as soon as the foot touched the blood it was like they were saying "if I break my part of the deal, you can do this to me. You can kill me and walk through my blood".  After the first person walked through, the lesser party of the contract would follow.  And as their foot touched the blood, they were saying the same thing.  So this had to be a very serious thing.

Knowing what a blood covenant is and what it actually symbolizes has really been helpful in understanding the next part of this passage.  

So a deep sleep falls upon Abram, which doesn't mean he's resting.  It actually means he's having a vision.  Then a great darkness fell on him (Genesis 15:12).  Which is basically saying that Abram was terrified.  So God's part of the deal was children, land, and a blessing.  Some of Abram's part of the deal was circumcision, faith, and walking blamelessly before God (Genesis 17:1).  So this is why Abram was terrified.  He knew that if he or anyone of his descendants failed in any of these, God would cut them in half and walk through their blood.  Abram knew he was making a blood covenant with God.  I would be terrified too.  

What happens next is awesome.  

Genesis 15:17 says

"When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces."

So in a blood covenant, the greater party goes first.  So what went first here is a smoking fire pot.  Um, what?  In scriptures, smoke was symbolic of God.  So in this blood covenant, God walked through first.  So God was saying, "if I don't keep my end of the deal; children, land, and a blessing, you can do this to me".  So after God walks through, Abram doesn't go through.  What goes through instead is a flaming torch.  Fire.  No where in the scriptures is fire used to talk about human beings.  So what is the flaming torch symbolizing?  It's symbolizing God again.  Instead of Abram walking through, God literally walks through twice.  So it's like God is saying, "Abram, if you or your descendants are not perfect, you can do this to me".  God promised that He would pay if Abram and his descendants were not perfect.  So at that moment, Jesus was sentenced to death years later.  

Generations later, Moses was given the Ten Commandments.  And twice a day, they would sacrifice the same animals and sprinkle the blood.  God didn't need these sacrifices.  But this was them telling God to remember His covenant He made with Abram.  They would do this at 9 in the morning and about 3 in the afternoon.  They did this every day for generations and generations and generations. Until Jesus came.  

After the passover lambs were chosen, Jesus was betrayed on that following Thursday night.  He went through a series of mock trials and on Friday, at 9 in the morning, Jesus hung between two thieves.  And by reading the scriptures closely, you can see that Jesus died at exactly 3 in the afternoon.  One of the last things Jesus said right before he died, "it is finished" (John 19:30).  The word He used literally meant fulfillment of a contract.  Jesus was announcing that the agreement that God had made with Abram, generations before, had been paid in full.  Jesus had been offered as God, Himself paying the price for Abram and his descendants' transgressions.  

I've always been afraid of the Old Testament.  It just scared me because I didn't know what it was talking about and the Commandments scared me.  But now, I have a new appreciation for the Old Testament.  It's an important part of the story (duh).  The Ten Commandments were there to remind us that we cannot follow them.  We are not perfect.  We need a Messiah.  Which makes the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus so much more important.  

God keeps his promises.  

Jesus died for me.  

It is finished.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Learning. Part One.

Things I've learned: Not within the past year. I think that's too cliché but let's move forward, shall we?

1. No matter what you do, the only thing that matters is why you do it.
If I do something for any reason other than giving glory to God, then I am doing something terribly wrong and I need to reevaluate what I'm doing. (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17)

2. You can't please everyone.
This is a hard one for me. I want to please everyone. But I cannot do that. And I shouldn't do that. I need to focus on a life pleasing to God. (Colossians 3:23)

3. Know which battles to fight and which ones to stay out of.
Not everything is your business. And your presence in an argument can and will make things worse.

4. Think often. But don't over think.
It's healthy to think. It keeps your mind moving and exercising. But over thinking has probably created many problems in my life. I've missed many opportunities because I was over thinking situations.  I've created situations that ended up badly because I was over thinking. Over thinking is like dwelling. Dwelling isn't such a good thing when it's over something of this world. Let the word of the Lord dwell in you and dwell in the house of the Lord. (Colossians 3:16 ; Psalm 27:4)

5. Listen.
Just listen. Sometimes there isn't an answer and sometimes there are no words worth saying. And there's probably no simpler thing you can do for someone than just listening to them.

6. Running relieves almost every piece of stress that has been stored in my body throughout the day.
I absolutely hate running but for some reason sometimes it is the only thing that makes my day better. Yet, I'll still refuse to go running even when I know that it will make me feel better.

7. God is greater than my biggest strength.
Well, this is a big one. It doesn't matter how big my biggest strength is. I could be able to move Mount Everest with my pinky, run a mile in under 2 minutes, swim under water for days or fly with the birds in the sky and God will still be greater. This may seem simple the way I put it, but it's much harder to remember when you are in your daily routine. 
God is greater. And I find comfort in that. (1 Corinthians 1:25)

8. You're not randomly placed where you are right now.
There is a reason why you're where you're at. First of all, it's your story. It's not going to be the same as anyone else. If you think you're suffering right now and there's no reason for it, think again. You're suffering for a reason. One day you may be able to use your suffering to help someone else. You may be feeling like you're stuck in a rut and you're not moving forward. There's a reason for that too. You never really know why you're going through things until you've actually been through them. You appreciate the situation more after you've been through it. I've never really figured out why. (Jeremiah 29:11)

9. Nothing in this world is perfect.
This is probably self explanatory but I think the key word here is "nothing". Sometimes I have this thought that there are some exceptions to this. For example, I act like some things are perfect without even realizing it. I may act like a situation is perfect or even another person is perfect but in reality, nothing is perfect. It's just a distorted thought that I'm not aware of. Jesus Christ is perfect. God's love is perfect. Nothing in this world can be perfect. (Hebrews 7:19)

10. Complaints can overtake your life very quickly.
It's like a sea of quicksand. You get one little part of you caught in the sand and you start sinking quickly. Complaints are also contagious. If everyone around you is constantly complaining, you're prone to start complaining yourself. I constantly have to check my attitude and often have to remind myself to be thankful and quit complaining about little things. (Philippians 2:14)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Crisis of Forgiveness

I'm always finding myself drawn to forgiveness topics.  Does that mean that I have something in my life that needs forgiveness or do I just find forgiveness really important?

I think it's probably both.

A lot of times I find it hard to truly understand forgiveness.  Just when I think I've forgiven someone I find out that I really haven't.

So why is it so hard to really forgive someone?

Well, first of all I believe that forgiveness comes in two steps.  The first is choosing to forgive and the second is acting on that decision.  I think the first step is the easiest for me and I often find it much harder to act on my decision to forgive.

Usually it frustrates me when I choose to forgive someone and then I find out that I actually haven't forgiven them.

(Let me clarify something real quick.  When I say that I find out that I haven't actually forgiven someone I don't mean that someone told me that I haven't or whatever.  Basically, I've just realized that I haven't forgiven them because I still have bitterness or I still bring up the situation or whatever)

Anyway, I've been processing what forgiveness really means so I've been reading articles on the topic.  here's one thing that got me thinking...

1. I won’t bring the offense up to the person, except for his benefit;
2. I won’t bring the offense up to others; and (hardest of all)
3. I won’t bring the offense up to myself. I will not go over it and think about it and dwell upon it.

At first when I read these I thought to myself, "what?"  But I think after thinking about them, I understand it better.  If I've really forgiven the person then why would I even want to bring the offense up to them?  If I brought the offense up to them it would just be like I wanted to get back at them or I wanted them to pay for what they have done.  While that could be my first instinct, it's not what forgiveness entails.  Forgiveness means to free someone from obligation of a payment or a debt.  Pretty much I won't expect them to repay me for what they did.

When I think of not bringing the offense up to others, I just get stuck.  It's part of my story so how does that work?  I think there are ways of telling your story without actually bringing up the offense.  It's difficult, but I think that's just part of the healing and forgiveness process.

Bringing it up to myself goes along the lines of bringing it up to others.  I mean, the offense happened to me so how do I not bring it up to myself especially when something triggers the thought?  

I think it's possible for the offense to be brought up but it's important to have dealt with it and just let it go.  If you let it come to your mind and dwell on it then chances are you really haven't forgiven that offense.

Sometimes the process of forgiveness takes a long time.  And sometimes you have to repeat the steps.  Sometimes all it takes is writing a letter, whether you give it to them or not, it's up to you.  Sometimes it takes a phone call.  Whatever the action is, just do it.  I believe you'll feel a lot better when you have completed the "crisis of forgiveness" as James MacDonald would say.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

My capacity for forgiveness is directly related to my comprehension of how much God loves me.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hope #2

I don't usually do this but I'm gonna share a journal entry I've written.

So here it is..

Tonight I realized that my experience at college so far has been one of finding hope.  I honestly didn't have hope at all.  I lost trust for everyone; for people.  I've been betrayed multiple times and yeah, people could say one of the worst kinds of betrayal but really, betrayal is betrayal and this is just my story.  I'm not here to one up someone, especially with my life.  I'm just not gong to compare my life to others like that.  It's not necessary and that's not why I'm here. 

A while ago I didn't know my purpose in life and I honestly still don't know, but I do know that I'm on the right path to finding my purpose.  I also know that I have a desire to share the hope that I've finally found.  To share it with those who were like me.  Those who have lost hope completely and have no desire to go find it.  And some just don't know they need it.  Or they don't know what it is.  Some just don't have the strength to go find it. 

I'm kind of losing my thoughts right now but I almost feel like going to find hope requires someone to have hope in the first place.  I mean if you are going to search for something then you have hope that its going to be there, right?  Otherwise you would just give up.  At least I would.  I guess that's why I think bringing hope to people is important.  If you didn't have hope would you do nothing and just be apathetic all your life? 

Some people think they've committed the worst sin and it's impossible to be forgiven.  Someone who has murdered or committed adultery, a rapist or a thief probably feel like their sins can't be forgiven but I don't think that's true.  I actually don't want that to be true.  If it were true, then Jesus dying on the cross wasn't worth anything and the hope is lost.  If it were true, I would have been hoping in a lie. 

I'm glad I found hope and I'm glad I can rest in knowing that this hope will never disappoint and it will never fade away.  I don't think about it as much as I want to, but why would I keep hope like that to myself? 

Hope that has changed my life.  A hope that gave me a purpose. 

Hope in Jesus. 

Honestly, this hope is worth all of the pain that I've ever experienced.

So there it is.
Welcome back to my thoughts.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life Pleasing To God

John Scott says in his book, Living In The End Times, "One of the greatest weaknesses of contemporary Christianity is our comparative neglect of Christian ethics, in both our teaching and our practice. We are known as people who preach the gospel rather than as those who live it."
I'm not real sure how to even begin this blog post after that quote. I feel like it's such a big thing that is happening in today's world. It's like we know what God wants from us but we only do the easy things or we only do the things that we want to do.

He does say go out into the world and preach the gospel. But He also says to love one another and to practice the things that were talked about in Philippians 4:8-9 so we will become like Him. It is my hope that when non-believers see believers they will feel loved and known and not judged or condemned.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 tells us God's will for us, our sanctification, how we should live a life pleasing to God.

"For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you." (1 Thess 4:7-8)

This passage is talking about abstaining from sexual immorality but also to live in love. We are called to love more and more. By love we fulfill the law. We are called to live quietly and walk shamelessly before outsiders.

Verse 11-12 says, "and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."

As said in Romans 2, it's not enough to hear but doing and practicing these things will bring justification. And to reject the giver of the Holy Spirit is like cutting yourself off from the sanctifying power that enables us to be blameless in holiness at the second coming.

Are you living your life in love?

What thoughts and actions need to change in order for you to please God?

What is God's role in your sanctification?

Today I'm thankful for:
-footie pjs

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Ever been in the position where you are constantly fighting a battle? It's like you take four steps forward and five steps back. You never get anywhere and you're always struggling to catch your breath towards the end of the battle. You may have thought to yourself that there has to be an easier way to get through your struggles.

I always have a hard time letting God take over my battles for me. It's like I'm not listening to Him. He says do one thing and I tell Him that it's stupid and I don't want to do that. Not very obedient, right?

It's basically saying that I don't trust God enough to believe that He has everything under control and to trust that He makes all things work together for my good.

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 says, "For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete."

It's not just actions that can be disobedient. Thoughts are the first step to becoming an action so internal disobedience needs to be eliminated. We are called to obey God. Why would I want to obey anyone else? That's almost like choosing to obey a murderer. I can't trust that a murderer has my best interest at heart.

"If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land" (Isaiah 1:19)

What battles are you fighting?

Is the battle worth fighting alone?

Do you feel freedom when you obey God and allow Him to fight for you?

Today I'm thankful for:
-take home exams

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Quiet Your Soul

I was reading through Psalm 131 yesterday and I thought it was really cool because it kind of relates to the passage I talked about on Friday. It talks about arrogance and pride and what we concern ourselves with.

I think it's hard to humble yourself every day and to focus on things that are actually going to matter. It's hard to know that I am loved by a God who will never love me less. It's hard to understand that I am loved by the Creator even when I choose to love the world over Him. I also find it unimaginable that God can love me even when I am poor, weak, and broken.

It's hard not to boast in things when you have completed a hard task or even when you have done something that no one thought you could do. It's hard to keep your heart and your eyes focused on what really matters. And it's hard to think of yourself more highly of others when you get in situations when you may be "better" than them.

Psalm 131 says, "O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore."

A lot of times I read passages that require me to do something afterwards and I feel like this passage requires me to just humble myself and know that God loves me for who I am and not for what I do. And know that God, the Creator, has created me for a purpose, for His perfect plan. He desires to just be with me. I feel like this passage is asking us to be content with God's presence, like a weaned child with its mother, just content with simply having their mother's presence.
We can hope in the Lord forever.

Did you know that God just wants to be with you?

How do you humble yourself in your hectic school or work schedule?

Do you find yourself with the God of peace when you humble yourself?

Today I am thankful for: