Thursday, March 30, 2006

I'm not lost. Just misplaced

Have you ever noticed that guys are incapable of being lost? It's true - we have an uncanny sixth-sense of locale awareness. To even suggest that we might not know where we're at is grossly offensive. Besides, stopping for directions is a sign of weakness. We might not always know where we're going, but we always know where we're at. Well, there was that one time when Jessica and I were driving from Nebraska to Kansas and somehow ended up in Iowa, and then there was the time where we were driving from Delaware to Pennsylvania and somehow ended up in Maryland, and then there was the time... oh, okay, so some guys manage to take wrong turns from time to time. But we're never lost! At least, never lost when it comes to driving.

The feeling of being lost is not fun. You feel like you're going along aimlessly, never really sure where it is that you're going, and hoping for something, anything, that is familiar. We can become lost in our relationship with God just as well - that is the absolute worst feeling. It often happens slowly but surely. Satan somehow manages to erode our relationship little by little, and every day we become a little more lost until we wake up one day and are completely disoriented, completely separated from God.

It starts with the little things - maybe I'll download that mp3, maybe I'll not let that person in traffic out of spite, maybe I'll skip church today, maybe I'll look at that one site. It can spiral pretty fast from there and we end up doing things we know we would never do if we were strong in our relationship with God.

We need to be strong in the Lord always. We need to stand firm, remain strong, and keep close guard against Satan, especially with the little things. Otherwise, we will become lost - or, if you're a guy, take a wrong turn.

Here are some Bible verses for encouragement to always be strong:

-Deuteronomy 4:9 (The message) "Make sure you stay alert. Keep close watch over yourselves. Don't forget anything of what you've seen. Don't let your heart wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Teach what you've seen and heard to your children and grandchildren."

-Proverbs 4:23 (The message) "Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that's where life starts."

-Matthew 24:44 (NIV) "So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him"

The good news is that we don't have to stop for directions if we become lost in our relationship with God.. we can simply turn the car around and surround ourselves with God. The Bible is our roadmap, God is our compass, and we can follow Him all the way to Heaven.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Skydiving Without a Parachute

Skydiving without a parachute is all fun and games until the abrupt end, which will most likely end with unfavorable results.

We live in a society where a lot of our behaviors are driven by impulse. Fast food, credit cards, loans, more, more, more! Greed is often used as an advertisement tool. Everyone needs more now, and companies with products to sell know this. They advertise "faster", "better", "newer", "richer"! A lot of times we fall for this, and some people fall so hard that it's as if they're jumping without a parachute. One day, reality catches up with them and it's not a pretty sight.
1st Timothy 6:10 says that "The love of money is the root of all evil." I was perusing through some calvinist site whose author claims that the word "all" in the Bible doesn't always mean "all", and pointed out this verse as an example - "Surely money wasn't the root of Adam's evil," the author claimed. But, as absurd as it sounds, it certainly was the case. What does money represent? The power to own. What can that represent? Greed. Greed is the root of all evil. Why did Adam and Eve fall to sin? They wanted to have everything. They were greedy.
Greed causes us to skydive without a parachute. We jump without a backup plan - we let it cloud our judgment. Our judgment can become so clouded that it's as if we jump without a parachute. Simply put, greed is another form of idolatry.

There are so many verses in the Bible that deal with greed.

-Psalms 10:3 The greedy man curses and spurns God

-Proverbs 18:1 An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment.

-Proverbs 28:25 A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.

-Proverbs 29:4 By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down.

-1 Corinthians 6:10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

-Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

But how do we deal with greed? We deal with it by praising God, by thanking Him for what He has given to us, by being content in the abundance of Christ's life.

-Luke 3:14 Be content with your wages-Hebrews 13:5 Be content with what you have-John 10:10 Jesus "came so that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A well-oiled machine

Women are a mystery to me. They do the strangest things sometimes, like overheat and spontaneously go into different gears. Did I say women? I meant cars, my bad. About the only thing I know about cars is that the oil needs to be changed every 3,000 miles or so. A friend of mine told me about a person who bought a brand new car and drove it for over forty thousand miles before the first oil change and the car never skipped a beat. But that's far from the norm. I can tell when I need to change the oil on my truck... it starts talking back when I try to shift to a differnt gear, and boy, you should hear the stuff that comes out of that truck's mouth!

Our relationship with God is a lot like a machine - it takes oil to run smoothly. The oil that I'm talking about is study and prayer. We should be reading, studying, praying, and focusing on God. One of the best ways to study is to read a daily devotion. I've been kind of slacking in that area.. okay, maybe slacking is an understatement. I've found that the more I read and the more I study, the more God is on my mind and the less likely I am to stumble. This has really helped me in my walk with God. Of course, there's the time issue - I mentioned earlier that my free time is about as common as a red and blue zebra. But this is something that absolutely needs to have time made for.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

News flash: Sweet Tooth Outsmarted by Wisdom Tooth

I don't know about you, but I love going to the dentist about as much as I love getting a kick in the pants. I freely admit that I am a pansy when it comes to anything dealing with my teeth. Technology hasn't yet advanced far enough to make teeth cloning a viable dental plan, so I reluctantly visit my orthodontist as infrequently as possible, which amounts to once every six months. Last time I went to the dentist, I was told to take out all of my wisdom teeth even though most of them were fine. Great.

Chew on this: Researchers believe that wisdom teeth should be extracted regardless if they are asymptomatic. At first, I thought it was a conspiracy with health insurers, researchers, and over-paid orthodontists to milk every last dollar out of the poor unsuspecting patient. But it turns out that the researchers are on to something - wisdom teeth can cause cysts, tumors, infection, and chronic inflammation no matter if they are crowding other teeth. The problem lies even deeper than the mouth, though - bacteria can enter the bloodstream and really wreak havoc, causing fun things like strokes, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and etc.

Sin is a lot like wisdom teeth. It might be comfortable now, but it has far more reaching consequences that can seep into our lives later on. Matthew 5:29-30 says, "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. "

I struggle with this verse. I know exactly what causes me to stumble, but my sweet tooth tells me to keep it around. I need to have my wisdom teeth extracted metaphysically - the venues from which sin can manifest itself need to be removed. Please pray for me that I can overcome the everyday temptations and remove the opportunities for the tempter to tempt me. I encourage everyone to have their wisdom teeth taken out - it's the healthy thing to do

Friday, March 24, 2006

Take a breather

They say that the passage of time is a function of age.. that is, the older you are, the faster time passes. I don't know who this all-knowing "they" is, but they're right. I gotta tell you - I'm kind of worried because I'm 29 and life is already on fast-forward! When I was a kid, Christmas Eve was an eternity. Okay, so maybe Christmas Eve is still an eternity now. But most other days today go by so fast that I'm doing good if I can tell you what day of the week it is. Wife, dog, church, work, school, piano students, practice, football/basketball, and so on take up all of my time and there's very little time to relax. And I don't even have kids! Time flies pretty fast when you're having fun, and I'm having a blast. I like to hoard my free time, though, and I think that's where I struggle a lot of times. I am afraid that I am not the only one with this struggle. We let ourselves become so busy that God sometimes becomes an after-thought in our "free" time.

I know this verse is taken a little out of context, but I really think it applies to me: Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God [...]". I need to always keep God on my mind, even during my free time. I need to take a breather and focus more on God.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jesus loves you. Now get out of my way!

I love aggressive drivers. They're really fun! Growing up in Kansas really mellowed me out in terms of driving mannerisms. Honestly, an aggressive driver in Kansas is considered as someone who doesn't wave back. But here in the east coast, aggressive drivers are so common that there are literally signs, and I am not joking at all here, that say "Beware of Aggressive Drivers!" Aggressive drivers are easy to spot. They give you the two-finger salute, they flash their lights as though there's a pregnant woman on board in the second stage of labor, they wave their hands in the air maniacally as if to say, "I am an aggressive driver! See? I'm waving my hands very enthusiastically!" Then there's my favorite - "let's get as close as we can to the person in front, then swerve to the other lane, barely escape the clutches of death, zoom up ahead, then swerve back in front - only to be stopped at a stoplight."

But nothing beats being passed by a very agressive driver who proudly wears an "I Heart Jesus" bumper sticker. I realize that we are all sinners and that we all make mistakes, but we should be striving at all times to live Christ-like. After all, We are Christians, aren't we? When we exhibit behavior that is contradictory to what we are proclaiming, we are doing much more than making ourselves look foolish. We are hardening the hearts of others because they see the hypocracy. Colossians 3:8 says " But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."

This includes road rage!

The next time we decide to be an aggressive driver, we need to remember that we are to be Christ-like always, even when we're driving.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Is leading worship... worship?

I have grown up leading worship in the church in various forms. Playing piano, playing guitar, singing (although that's certainly not my forte), bass, drama, and etc. I've always considered this as part of my ministry. But while I'm leading worship, I often find it hard to focus entirely on God. There are times when I can put my music playing on auto-pilot and actually focus more on God, but for the most part, I have to focus on the task at hand. That's just the way it is. I have to find other venues to actually focus purely on God in a worship setting where I'm not actually preoccupied with making sure I'm in the right key, and I typically turn to prayer for that.

I had an interesting conversation with my brother-in-law/good friend who suggested that worship leading is actually worship in of itself. He took it further and suggested that doing anything for God can be considered as an act of worship. This could include tasks as menial as stuffing envelopes or janitorial service, and it could include preparing for a sermon or rehearsing in a praise band.

While I agree that these tasks are acts of obedience and part of our ministry, I'm not sure that it is truly an act of worship. I guess it boils down to what worship really is. Webster's defines worship as "reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence". I fail to see how stuffing envelopes is expressing reverence. To revere is to "show devoted deferential honor to : regard as worthy of great honor." According to Webster's, stuffing envelopes is not worship. And I agree - although we are doing these tasks out of obedience and love, the actual act of these tasks is not exactly revering God.

Which leads me back to leading worhsip. When I am leading worship, I am not revering God. I am concentrating primarily on the process of leading worship. Maybe other people can do both (it's probably much easier for vocalists since they are voicing out praises), but it is too difficult for me. Therefore, since I am not actually revering God, I contend that I am not truly worshipping. And this bothers me a little. I am going to try to set aside more time where it's just God and me. Where I am truly revering God without concentrating on what chord is coming up next.