Thursday, December 27, 2012

Making Choices . . .

I've been changing for several months. Two of the hardest changes so far have been to stop watching a TV series called Firefly, and another called Sherlock. Firefly was my favorite series, Sherlock not far from it.

Another difficult thing for me to lose was P.O.D.'s music. One of my favorite bands, i had nearly their entire discography (seven of their eight studio albums). In their latest album, titled "Murdered Love" (the title track being about Jesus being Love and having been crucified), they threw out a censored obscenity in a bonus track. I gave away every one of their albums that i owned.

I waited for weeks for Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn to come out on DVD. It did. I bought it. I watched a few minutes of the first episode. I turned it off because of one anatomical reference. I was furious, and moreso at myself than the writers. I owned and watched other things with the same reference before (Sherlock, for instance). I wanted so badly to watch that series . . . And i can't.

I've been asking myself why i've gotten so convicted about things i didn't really care about before. I'd fast-forward through a scene in a movie, mute it for a moment, skip a song (such as in Creed's first album).
But i'm not comfortable doing that anymore. I'm not comfortable even having these things in my possession anymore. It's become somewhat exhausting--sometimes i just want to sit and watch an episode of Firefly.
As i told a friend earlier this evening in regards to entertainment and my focus, "I've given up so many things i love . . ."
Then the reason for all of this asphyxiating change in my standards became rather clear . . . It's things i love that i'm feeling convicted about.

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
1 John 2:15

I honestly believe this is God telling me to decide between Him and the things in this world. It's not fun, not at all. If it comes to it, however, i will always choose God over anything this world has to offer.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A little bit about Faith . . .

While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. And when Jesus came to the ruler's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district.
And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.
As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.”
Matthew 9:18-33

This is impressive to me. Jesus performed miracles one after another. Walking from one end of the street to the other, He healed several people.
I am left in awe at this . . . There's so much to be said about so many things in just these few passages.
"... your faith has made you well." It wasn't her faith in His garment, but the fact that it was His garment. The fact that the Son of God had touched something, power must be flowing through it--it's faith in Christ that heals us, not faith in an object. Not by her faith in His cloak, but faith in His power. People misplace faith so much, thinking that if we touch the preacher's hand, or we touch a symbol of a cross, or we hold onto a certain object while we pray, God will be more likely to answer our prayers . . . It all comes down to faith in God, not faith in the objects we touch while praying. Did the cross save you, or did Jesus? Crosses are fine and dandy, but i've seen many with faith in their crucifix (even protestants), and that unsettles me. It's faith in Christ.

"Do you believe that I am able to do this?" (...) “According to your faith be it done to you.”
Again, it was their faith in Him. He didn't say "Do you believe this can happen?", He asked "Do you believe that I am able to do this?". I. He said "Do you believe that I am able ...?" Faith totally in Him is what healed them.

I love that . . .

And this may have been throughout the course of more than one day, but it strikes me as being one trip through the city, as the woman with the discharge met Him on His way to the ruler's house, and as He passed from there, blind men followed, and as He was going away, a possessed mute was brought to Him. How would one keep track of all that He'd done over the course of years if this all happened in a single outing?
No wonder John wrote "Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."
(John 21:25)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I am Crucified

(most of my quotations are from the ESV translation)

"We know that our old self as crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin."
Romans 6:6

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Galatians 2:20

"And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
Galatians 5:24

"But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."
Galatians 6:14

So, Galatians pretty much covers this topic; we must 'die' to the world.
I've heard that a lot in my life, but it never really stuck out to me until i found myself saying "How i was" and "How i used to be." When i said that, what flashed through my mind was a paraphrase of Romans 6:6; the old man has died, and a new one has risen.
But what happens? So, you might have a different lifestyle after you get saved. But what truly happens is not just a change in lifestyle. It's a change of life.
To die, everything that we are is severed. It ceases to be, and we're left an empty shell--the spirit has flown.

To die to the world means to leave all the ways you lived behind. Not just the big sins like thievery and violence, but all sins. It's not the 'big' sins that keep people out of Heaven, it's the little ones, because sin is sin. A murderer and a person who steals a pack of gum might be seen different in humanity's eyes, and rightly so. But the spiritual effects are equal--utterly damning.
Everything about us has died; our way of thinking, our way of talking, our way of looking at people and things, our desires, our mannerisms. Everything about us dies and becomes no more; it is crucified and buried as Christ was.
From there, we are given a new life; we are born again. A new person, a new heart, a renewed mind, a new spirit, new desires, new hopes, new dreams, new life. Everything that was is dead and gone. We have a new identification (truly so, as God has a name for us each; my name is not necessarily Josh Isaacs to God. No, He has a name for me that i don't know yet).

And as we die to the world because we are crucified with Christ, so also does the world and its ways die to us.

"How i was" might not be the correct way of putting it . . . Rather, "the person that used to inhabit this body," might be slightly more accurate.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Of what use is my faith if i don't love? If i love, i will share my faith out of compassion. If i don't share it, i don't love; if i don't love, i gain nothing. Faith is nothing if not shared.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How do we achieve holiness? Short answer: We don't. Having Jesus in our heart achieves it for us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Be Transformed

Romans 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

We are not to look around at the world and set our standards relative to what we see.
If we catch ourselves saying "But they've done worse," we've already made a mistake. We are not to be led or influenced by what this world has to offer. We're to be blameless; "good and acceptable and perfect" to God. This doesn't mean we must be infallible, but that we must strive to be God-like in our ways. Doing all things that we do for the glory of God.
If someone of the world steals, say, a $300 phone from a store, that doesn't make stealing a $0.20 package of gum less wrong for us. If someone of the world gets angry and kills someone, that doesn't make holding a 'harmless' grudge less wrong for us. If someone of the world cusses profanely, that doesn't make a minor slip of the tongue less wrong for us (i don't necessarily believe cussing to be a sin, but if we feel we shouldn't, then that makes it sin--at least that's my interpretation of James 4:17). If someone of the world is a habitual liar, that doesn't makes make a dishonest answer less wrong for us. If has relations with a dozen people, that doesn't make an inappropriate glance any less wrong for us.
Sin is sin; what sin is greater than another, if all have the power to condemn us? No, it's us condemning ourselves by letting ourselves sin.

So don't look around to find your moral compass; the poles have shifted and you will find no definitive "north" in this world. Look to the Bible, find the absolutes. Then look inside and find what you convict yourself of as well. Only by living by standards of the Bible and piling our own convictions upon ourselves along with the Biblical ones can we live a good and acceptable and perfect life.

For musical accompaniment, there's a song called "Not The Same" by a band called Disciple (that's a link to the Youtube video of it, by the way).
I don't recommend it unless you like heavy music . . . Like, really heavy music. Great, relevant lyrics, just and unappealing musical styles unless you have an aggressive taste in music.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Positive thoughts . . .

Think positive, think positive, think positive . . . Christianity is not a series of "happy thoughts". It's important to keep our minds active and positive, yes, because life is not a cakewalk. It's one step above Hell, and that's it. That's why we have to think positive; not so life will be better, but so we can alter our perception to accept the good with greater joy, and meet trials more graciously. Unless i'm mistaken (and that is likely), Paul was the one who wrote about thinking of things that are good, to keep our thoughts on the joys in life . . . The same Paul that was haunted by his past as a murderer of Christians, and he was imprisoned much of his life for sharing the gospel . . . What good did thinking of positive things avail him? Well, it certainly didn't make life easier, just easier to bear.

In fact, he had a "thorn" in his side that Jesus wouldn't remove; "So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

To be a Christian in our demeanor regarding our outlook on life isn't to walk around with a fake smile on your face, saying "Everything's okay" every day, no matter what's going on. It's not stubbing your toe and laughing instead of saying "Ouch!" It's not grinning when the doctor informs you of bad news.
It's saying, with thanksgiving (Eph. 4:6) "God, the circumstances are tough, i can't always handle this alone, and sometimes life is simply coming apart at the seams, but i know Your grace is sufficient; Your grace covers me; Your love, patience, wisdom and power are emphasized by the trials i face, so i will face them knowing You are with me."

So yes, think positive, but don't expect it to make life easier or for blessings to pour into your life because of it. If Satan isn't attacking you while he can (which is in this life, or in Hell; he can't touch us in Heaven so he will attack the elect as much as he can while he can), something's not right. If he's not testing you, test yourself to make sure you're saying what needs to be said, doing what needs to be done, and fighting the battles that need to be fought.
Don't lead me to the cross, don't lead me to the empty altar where Jesus died for me; instead, lead me to His throne, lead me to the risen King.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Seek God, Work For Love

Love won't pay the bills, nor will it put food on the table, but it will satisfy the soul.
What good is it to gain the whole world but lose your soul? Work first for love, for if we have riches yet no love, we have nothing.
Seek, above all things, the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and your needs will be met/supplied (or are we so vain as to believe that His grace is not sufficient for us?).

Seek the kingdom of God, seek His righteousness, and you will not know need.
Work for love, and you will not toil in vain.
In these two things, the body is nourished and the soul fulfilled.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What good is it to listen if we don't hear?
What good is it to talk if we say nothing?
What good is it to observe if we learn nothing?
Wanna know why bad things happen to good people?
I do too.

But you know what? I'm living proof that good things happen to undeserving people.
And so are you.

Who are you?

Who i am is me; no one tells me who i am. Not my parents, not my pastor, not my friends, not strangers; who i am is between me and God.

What about you? Who defines you?
Are you a mere convergence of your parents' DNA (or are you following blind obedience to them)?
Are you a sheep who sees pastors (men) as infallible?
Do those you spend time with have the right to choose who you are?
Do the unbiased opinions of strangers hold more water than the biases of those you keep company with?
Or are you an independent person, finding out who you are in God?

Parents can teach, pastors can advise, friends can support, strangers can offer glimpses, but nobody decides who you are except you.
I'm not condoning disobedience. I'm merely stating that nobody knows what use you are to God except for God Himself. No mortal can fathom.
No preacher/spiritual adviser can tell you who you are or what you're here for, or where you're to go. They can offer support and advice, but much more is overstepping their boundaries. Parents can set up rules, but what we do in private or outside their watch is purely up to us. Friends can help us through difficult times, but they can't build us.
People try to make us into themselves, or guide us into being what they want us to be. But nobody knows your heart except you and God; why should anyone else have any say in who you are?
Only God can build us, and only if we let Him. We can find ourselves, but who are we if we don't have God . . . What have we found? A shell. Have Christ in your heart, and you will be found.

So who are you?
Do you follow people who are just as out of place in this world as you?
Or are you independent, unique, unalterable by the things in the world you live in, shaped only by your craving for meaning (read: craving for God)?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Faith without love is like respect without reason; it is shattered when reality strikes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What is Love?

What is love?
More than a feeling, more than a chemical reaction, more than a craving, what is it that makes love what it is?
Anger is a feeling. There are books written about it, but not enough to fill a dozen libraries.
Grief is an emotion, too. Again, it has books written about it, but scarcely does one spend their life in search of it.
Sadness is one of the more popular emotions, but it’s not fantasized about endlessly.
Why is love set apart? Why do we seek it, sometimes our entire lives? Why does it fill our hearts and minds so that we fill countless books with tales of it? Why do we feel joy for those that experience it? How is it that it affects us by proxy so much that we can be brought to tears of happiness at imaginary scenarios involving it?

Love is a meaning. It is life.
When we seek love, we seek meaning.
When we fill pages with love, we fill them with life.
We must learn to love things with meaning, with truth, with meaning, or else our love means nothing and our pages are filled with a pointless life, and our search is never complete. We die hollow, empty, and alone.
Your love must be true.
Love truth. Delight in truth. Love wisdom. Seek wisdom. Pray for discernment. Trust in God, for God is love.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Everything that has a shell is hiding something--the beauty, the life; it's within.
It's dangerous to break out of that shell; it could damage you, and severely . . . But you'll not grow out of it if you don't.
Isn't life itself a risk? What is love without risk? What is life without love? 1 Corinthians 13 says we gain nothing if we don't have love.
Go, live, risk . . . And above all else, love!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Speak your mind . . .

Where i work, we have scripture verses posted on some of the walls. On our business cards, hats, ads, etc., there is one verse that is mentioned above all others: Matthew 6:33.
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (ESV)
It's an awesome verse, but it, in and of itself, does little to explain what, exactly, will be added to us. "All these things" is referencing prior verses.
Now, i've been working there since i was 12; nine years past. That verse has been drove into my mind so much that i could quote it in my sleep, and in all that time i've not considered it heavily on many occasions. A few days ago i was sort of meditating on it, though.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all."

Those are the verses leading up to 6:33 (25-32, to be exact).
It addresses necessities of life. Don't worry about them, have faith in God, and seek His kingdom above all other things, and He will supply you with your needs.
It also addresses worth. In this, we see how God supplies for and clothes with splendor all things, even the birds and flowers; they have worth to Him--how much more His own children must!
This, at the time, didn't relate much to me, as i have more than i could need, and i don't suffer from a lack of self-worth (self-respect is another story). I told a friend of mine about how those verses struck me when paired with the following one, though, and how impressive i thought the overall message was.
It didn't occur to me that someone else might've needed to hear that . . . And at the time it didn't serve much purpose to either of us, but mere hours later, a scenario came up involving the same friend and a discouraging situation.
It was interesting, because we had talked earlier that same day about how it might seem that others see us as worthless, but God promises through these verses that He holds us with worth above things He holds with worth, and sees us as His children, and that He will supply for His children since He is our Father.
That may have been chance, but i honestly don't think so. I'm not saying it was necessarily 'ordained', or that God was speaking through me, just that He was able to utilize His own words by having placed reminders around me of that set of verses for the last decade.

My reason for putting all of this is to encourage you not to disregard what might somehow help someone else. Just because a thought that passes through your mind doesn't affect you doesn't mean it should be disregarded. Your thoughts, though they might not completely pertain to yourself, should not be ignored; someone else may need to hear what you have to say.
Think positive, then speak your mind.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

We all have multiple choices. Everything comes down to choices. But sometimes it comes down to two general choices:
1) the smooth, easy, direct path, or
2) the hard road, the one that leaves us hurt more often than not, the one that tests us and breaks us, but in our breaking down we are being built up. It's the road that teaches us how to appreciate what we have, keeps us focused enough to not want the things we don't, and it leaves us feeling fulfilled and accomplished because anyone can travel from point A to point B, but it's only the determined that take the road less traveled.

When such a choice is yours, do you take the easy, bland path, or the rough, fulfilling one?

Friday, October 12, 2012

If you're going to number your reasons to be sad, at least try to number your heartbeats and breaths--each one was a gift and a reason to rejoice.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mouths and ears don't work at the same time. So many times i cry out for God's will to be made known, yet i won't be quiet long enough to hear Him speak.