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Valued or Used

A box of General Mills’ Cookie Crisp breakfast...

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Have you ever noticed that there are way too many kinds of cereal?  I was walking down the cereal aisle as that very thought entered my mind.  As I am looking past all of the boxes of sugar encrusted corn starch, I hear a familiar sound: a child not getting his way.  There is a specific pitch the whine of a young child has that drives me insane.  A little boy is apparently in severe need of Cookie Crisp, and his mother decides it’s not an appropriate choice for him.  I soon decide cereal is no longer an important necessity, and as I vacate the aisle to regain my sanity I see the battle continuing to wage.

The temper tantrum that ensues when someone doesn’t get their way is not limited to the young, or to the cereal aisle.  I see it all the time amongst those who don’t feel life is going the way it should, and more often than not, I find myself doing the same.  When bills no longer are able to be paid, when I don’t get the job I deserve, or even when tragedy strikes, I throw a fit.  Not because I don’t trust Jesus, but because He isn’t making my life the way I feel it needs to be.  Like a kid in the cereal aisle, when I don’t get what I want I get mad at God.  I live my life correctly, I do all the right things, and none of the wrong, and still my life isn’t going the way it should.  I make promises to myself on God’s behalf thinking God will honor them as long as I live the good Christian life.  So when my life falls apart, I get mad at God for not holding up His end of a promise He never made!

And with this attitude, I am an idolater.

I take the one thing I am supposed to value above all else, and instead of doing such I use it to further my selfishness.

For many of us, Jesus has turned into nothing more than a way to get what we want out of life.   If our marriage isn’t what we think it should be, then we come running to Him.  When we don’t have the money to pay our bills and have nowhere else to run, we fall on our knees and cry out to Him.  When a loved one suddenly dies we, amidst tears, cry out for answers.  All of these situations are the perfect time to chase after Christ and seek comfort and answers in Him, but it seems to only be during these situations we do such. We should pray for comfort in such times and we should indeed be confident Christ can and will carry us through; but what if it doesn’t play out how we want it to?  So often we turn to Him only when there is something we cannot get or do ourselves, and He quickly falls out of mind when we feel we have life under control.

Jesus is supposed to be:“… Like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  Matt 13:44

Christ is supposed to be someone that we value, someone we cherish, not an item to be wielded as a fix-all.  He is turned into a “break glass in case of emergency” and fails to hold our attention when life goes well.  We will never value something that we only turn to as a whining child pleas with his mother for his favorite cereal.  If satisfaction in Christ is not something we long for everyday, then He will never be more than a Santa Claus who when we sit on His lap we make our requests known, and come Christmas morning we are pissed that the gifts are all wrong.

We have trained people to treat Jesus as a means to an end and when we don’t get out of Him what we want, we throw him away.  To me, this sounds a lot more like a genie in a bottle than a savior, than a God.  Is this something valued?  Is this a Jesus that we treasure?  Or is this something we simply drop our wish list in front of and only give further thought to when He doesn’t meet our demands?

~ Aaron

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Philosophy, Religion

 

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Rise Today

I love metal.  I listen to it all the time and drum along in my truck as I revel in the glory that is all things heavy.   Let me paint a picture: lane lines are passing by at a sluggish rate, tail lights are as far as the eye can see, vehicles move forward for half of a second then suddenly stop.  It’s a Thursday and this is traffic. Twenty-five minutes to work and I stare at the back of the same SUV until I slowly make my way off the 202, two more right hand turns, then into the office parking lot.  The monotony of it all would leave anyone without motivation to even step out of the vehicle, but I step out energized and ready to face the world. Why?  Back up twenty-five minutes…..  As I back out of my parking space I reach for a cd, and the obvious choice is Alterbridge’s Blackbird album.  The amazing rush of full bodied vocals, some of the most tasteful drumming, and screaming guitar solos that can boost whatever bad mood I was in, all of these make the most incredible musical fusion that takes me away from the mundane.   I slam my steering-wheel to match the fills of Scott Phillips and I am ready to ditch work and just get behind some drums.  But then the next track starts.  The hard hitting riffs are toned down on this song, a little more somber now, but the pulse is the same.

Myles Kennedy Live San Antonio

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Myles Kennedy hits incredible vocal notes as the message comes out…”I wanna Rise Today and change this world.”  A great message of calling this society to impact the world; a man’s statement to declare his longing to not let the world around him stay the same.   Amidst the celebrities who define self-centeredness it does seem nice to see some who have thoughts of global improvement; and it is refreshing to witness.   Maybe it’s just the musical genius attached to the lyrics but this song seemed to hit me, “Rise Today and change this world.”  I began to think critically, as I often enjoying do,  and started wondering what drove this musician to such a thought, what brought Myles Kennedy to think about the state of the world and long for its improvement?  Of course I understand the doctrine of total depravity and often think about the fallen state of the world, but an unbeliever, a celebrity, realizes it as well.

Something has gone terribly wrong with humanity.   There is no denying it whatsoever.   Even those who despise religion, those who don’t believe in sin, even the person who looks at what we call sin and says “that is nothing but a creation on the part of religion to control others,” even that person has to see it.  I look at a news story from west Texas where a middle-aged man kicked in the door of an elementary school and put a bullet in the back of the head of 11 4th graders, and at this moment we have to note the fallen state of man.  Even the one who would say “that does not exist,” looks at that situation and says “that is wicked!!!!”  The staunchest atheist looks at that and has no choice but to say “something has gone wrong here!!!!”  The issue then seems to be what to do with this state of humanity.   The band mentioned here is calling man to action, to wake up and strive for change, to not let this world simply be what it is.  Upon witnessing man in his current state, even the unbeliever knows that there must be something better than what we have now.

I begin to think about man’s attempts to better the world: some attempts good, others made their way into history books as atrocities.  I think about the meta-narrative of the world, how has it changed?  Are their fewer wars today than 1000 years ago?  Is there less hunger than 200 years ago?  With all of the myriads of organizations doing great things throughout the world, is disease dropping off the face of the planet?  Has the world become united?  Do we wake up and think about the growth and movement of the world?  Do we contemplate the amazing changes we are seeing?  No.  There is not great change.  Wars are being fought, people are being slaughtered, children still die.  So I ask, what change has actually occurred in the world throughout history?

(Disclaimer:  I am not downplaying the efforts and successes of great organizations across the globe that accomplish great things to better the lives of impoverished nations and meet the needs of those who desperately need such aid. I am simply noting that though these are great and necessary things to happen, they are not solving a problem, only treating symptom.) 

I have seen only one sincere change in the world as I look throughout all of history.  A change that made such an impact on the world that history itself is centered around it, and a simple two letters that demonstrate this change: A.D.  (or C.E.)  The advent of the Christ severed the timeline of history and offered a resounding change in the world which boasts effects still running in our world today.   I contemplate the works of Christ, the message that offered the only true hope our world has ever seen.  Then I find comfort in his last words:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

If change is going to happen, Christ gave us the methodology here.  If the fallen state of man is to be impacted at all, it is not going to happen by the means of man himself.    This is not to be a conclusion that robs us of joy, but quite the contrary.  The state of the world is seen by even the unbeliever to be in desperate need of change, and yet only those equipped by the Holy Spirit are in fact capable of causing real change.  Only us marked by the gospel have the ability to offer true hope, to offer a message of good news.  Only those who find their identity in Christ can partner with Him and “Rise Today.”  I find a great deal of duty, as well as honor in these thoughts: that though the rest of the world may even be able to see the need for hope, for change, only the redeemed have it.  This is not to be some power wielded arrogantly, but instead it is a charge placed to us by Christ himself with His last words.  We have our calling, and the harvest is great.  I look to my Lord for strength, direction, and encouragement as I leave my vehicle.  Oh God, help me rise today.

Aaron

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Friendly Fire

I want to vomit. I just left my pastors’ offices and was yelled at for over an hour about how horrible my thoughts were. Two men who I had listened to and respected for 19 years were now picking me apart as if I was the biggest threat to modern evangelicalism. I was told that I was undermining the integrity of the church government, causing the church’s senior citizens to grow angry, and challenging the teaching of my pastors. I sat in shock of the charges brought against me and I wondered how my passion for theology could have caused this response. Let me back up a bit…..

I love doctrine. I mean, I am that guy you will see reading a 1200 page book on systematic theology and just be lost as I savor the sweet ineffable characteristics of the divine. I remember in Bible College when I sat through two semesters of theology and didn’t learn a thing, because I had been embracing these topics for years prior to this scholastic endeavor. I wrote entire papers on theological topics using only sources from my own library and easily got good grades on these papers. I knew exactly what I believed about almost every doctrine and could explain to you not only the logic but the biblical texts behind my conclusions.

I say again, I was that guy.

I didn’t study the attributes of God for some mere intellectual purpose; I did it because nothing was as satisfying to me as learning about who God is, and why He does what He does. I would lose hours reading Paul’s epistles as he would tell other churches about the gospel and how it rid them of the need for actions to prove your worth to God (justification), how it had nothing to do with my abilities (unconditional election), how I could not even recognize God without His initial call (total depravity) and how God always held every situation in His hands (sovereignty). These were the doctrines that demanded my attention, and emotion. And with this ongoing pursuit now exceeding 2 years, I was now being told my passion was misplaced.

John Calvin

John Calvin

My pastor had told me that the doctrines I held so dear and found so much joy in were extremely offensive and were in fact completely wrong. I made my stance known with biblical support but instead of being heard I was threatened. I was told I would never teach any age level at the church again, nor could I be trusted anymore. My heart sank. As I sat in the church bathroom after this intense meeting I questioned so much. I wondered how these people could tell me my pursuit of the knowledge of God was un-welcomed and that the uttering of the word “Calvinism” may as well have been me shouting the word f*^#. I had called this church my spiritual home for just under two decades and now I was being shunned as if I had leprosy. I didn’t know what to feel.

We in the church often kill our own wounded. Such was the case at this church. We find the person who has questions, who is searching and we shoot them at point-blank range for the audacity to question what tradition has taught us to revere. We will repress the passion and drive of the person who is asking dangerous questions because we already have the answers from a theologian five centuries prior.

As I sought answers on theological questions and began developing my stance on key issues I was never encouraged to search, I was only told what was right and what was wrong.  Christ bid me to reach for Him, the institution would have me digress. I found comfort in the nature of God Himself, and I was told my conclusions were invalid. I left this church. The scars would last for a while, but God grew me through the pain. The thing I learned through it all is that sometimes the church is more in favor of tradition that longing for the person of Christ. How many casualties are we racking up from friendly fire?

~ Aaron

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Bible, Calvinism, Religion

 

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