Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Beautiful Mountain Peaks

I wanted to put a different quote in that box, but instead I went with a verse because it makes more sense in the context of this blog. Just a quick update: 

Yes this blog is still active. Hopefully I will be posting once or twice a month, depending on how the world turns. This will hopefully help me get better at writing and graphic design. I also work at a Starbucks in a grocery store chain Hy-Vee.

And that's where today's story begins. I come in Wednesday morning and see a co-worker I haven't worked with in a long time K. She's a wonderful lady, and one of the most joyful people I've had the pleasure of meeting, next to my own father. However I learned of some sad news the other week -- she was diagnosed with stage 2 (really the end of 2) breast cancer. That floored me, and seeing her today also floored me. She is a morning worker, while most teenagers work nights and closings. This was my first, and last morning working with K, because Friday she starts chemo and I probably won't work with her afterwards. Every third customer and every third employee who walked past she knew, had a personal connection with, and loved to talk with. She talked with me about her cancer, her life, other people's lives, the day to day grind of working mornings that most of us kids don't know about. It was so wonderfully special and wonderfully sad. All these people knew of K's condition too, and knew that it was her second to last day of working until further notice. 

One special man is one that has come in almost every since opening the store and that's H. Around November K started drawing on his cup before he got to the store, just because he was a regular. This tradition has held throughout the store's lifetime. When he found out about the cancer Monday, he was stunned. His face was a somber slab of stone when he asked, 

"Who will draw on my cups? B (boss), give K a sleeve of Venti sleeves so she can draw on those cups while she's away."

K: "Well H what do I get out of this deal huh?"
H: "I've got a hat you can wear after you've gone through chemo and lost some hair."

So today he brought in a hat that looks like this. H actually smiled and dropped in sarcastic facade to wish her luck in chemo and to say that he hoped everything would be alright. 

K left at 1:30 today and I was alone until 2 when the other kids showed up. And good Lord did I cry. I cried because I'm the last young person to work with her before she goes to chemo. I say and heard how scared she was, yet how hopeful and trusting in God she was about the situation. This was truly the first time that someone very close to me has actually been diagnosed with cancer. There was my pastor's wife before this, but I truly did not know her that well. However in these thirty minutes were rushes of empathy, anger, frustration, longing, and sadness. 

I asked God why do the joyful always come down with the worst of sicknesses? I pleaded to the Lord to help her, and thanked him for what a beautiful day it was outside. I thanked God for the other people in my life who are alive and well, and prayed and prayed for God to give K strength in this upcoming battle with cancer. I got to thinking about how K said she was going to read her grandmother's book about suffering called "Through the Valley" or something similar to that. 
Based on this verse from Psalm 23. Click for an analysis of that Psalm

And just then a thought occurred to me: when are you ground level you see mountains in the background of everyday life. You might think they're beautiful, but you might not pay much attention to them. However once you're in the valley, you can see these mountains for how truly tall they are. You can see these peaks for how truly beautiful they are. You can see the clouds so far above the sky, and remember that there's still beauty in the world. 

The valley is not a place to stay, God leads us through to conquer mountains. Matthew 17:20 says that with faith as small as a mustard seed, we can move mountains. However God is the one who moves them, into ramps out of the valley. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Zeal - The Enigma of Enthusiasm

Zeal gets tossed around a lot in Christian circles. Some people quote Romans 12 and Revelation 3 in evidence to the claim that we must be zealous in our walk with Christ, or be opposite entirely as a cold entity of apathy toward God our father. However as I covered in a previous blog on Complacency, Revelation 3 isn't talking about that, and really neither is Romans 12:11. 
Verse 11 talks about how we are to never lack in zeal, but on the contrary keep our spiritual fervor serving the Lord. Yet two chapter earlier in Romans, Paul is talking about the Israelites themselves and how they have lots of zeal, but do not have lots of knowledge. And Paul says that because they live that way, they don't actually follow the righteousness of God. And as it says in Proverbs

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Yielding - More Than Just a Sign

Yielding's traditional definition falls under giving way to pressure or give way to argument and demands. With that, it also means to produce something or provide something, usually a natural product like crops and whatnot. However in the Bible it has a slightly different meaning. The best way I can describe it is it's giving way to God's commands and his will, and then through that fully producing what he has planned for us and being an active participant in his plan as well as directly benefiting from it. 

Little different from just "yield" right?

That happens a lot in translations of Greek and Hebrew words into English. One example is in Ephesians 2:8 where it says we have been saved through faith. But the verb saved isn't just "past tense", it's "past tense with an emphasis on how it affects the present reality of the direct object to the verb." So yielding here is accepting God's will and at the same time living out what his plan is. This cannot be done simply by our own human conviction or effort. Romans 12 tells us that we are to be living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God, not conforming to the world. We do this not by own our efforts of anything physical or tangible, but the renewal of our minds, so that when by being tested we'll be able to figure out the will of God and follow it. 

Renewing our minds refers to how in Hebrew the word we translate as "repentance" carries the notion of a changed mind. Our thinking must be changed from our old ways (hence transformed) into new Godly ways of thinking. This is done by replacing our thoughts and natural brain tendencies with that of God's truth, that is his word. 

So yielding is both at the same time surrendering humbly to God's will and following it at the same time, by renewing our mind processes and natural tendencies with those outlined in God's truth. As puts it...

Friday, April 29, 2016

X - The Cross

Throughout this blog I've dropped a lot of Biblical jargon in this blog, and hopefully it hasn't gone too far over many people's heads. There's been a lot on salvation, Jesus, Paul and Peter, but not a lot on Jesus himself. I wanted to take this blog and do a quick summary of who he was, what he did, and why he did it. Hopefully I don't get the heretical sticker of ineptitude by the Christian community at large.

There's a dude named Joseph, who's a great great great...great grandson of David, who's father was Jesse, who was a great great great great...great grandson to Abraham, the man God promised to give many dependents and that a king would come from his line.

Oh boy this is getting complicated already.

Okay so Joseph is engaged to this girl Mary, and before they even do the deed, Mary begins showing that she's very visibly pregnant. Joseph's all, "hey yo Mary. I respect you and all, so imma divorce you quietly so as not to like, shame you or nothing." Then an angel shows up and is like, "Hey wait don't divorce her the baby is from the Holy Spirit. Let it be." So he lets it be and they named the boy...Jesus. Throughout his life...

A prophecy was something that people in the Old Testament hundreds of years ago spoke of with the divine knowledge God gave them. He used the Prophets to tell of famine, war, prosperity, restoration, weather, really anything that God deemed fit for the Israelites (and subsequently us readers today) to know. Back then there were also prophecies of a man who would come to save everyone, live perfectly, take the wrath of God entirely for our sake, and be pierced for our transgressions. 

This man was Jesus, and he died on a cross. Why specifically a cross, no one is really too sure. However we do know that it's what God had planned from a very long time ago. One such example comes from Numbers 21. 
Jesus then mentions this incident in his own life as a representation of dying on the Cross, how that anyone who believes in Jesus may have eternal life in him. So the cross was prophesied specifically about before crucifixion was even invented, and being that it's how Jesus died, it's a rather important symbol to the faith. For on the cross, on the tree, on the pole, Jesus took the entire wrath of God meant for man, and rose again from the dead three days later. On that day, he conquered death and had power over it, and offered that power as a gift to anyone who believes in him. 

Oh goodness I'm this isn't too scatterbrained.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Wrath - What does it mean for modern day?
There's a common misconception about the wrath of God. That his wrath is only in the Old Testament, that viewing God is in this way is intolerant or disconcerting. That if you took the Old Testament full of wrath and take it as it says, God is an uncaring mean dictator who directs others to murder and destruction. However, let's look at some attributes of God.

God is just (2 Thes 1:6). He is holy and represents the entirety of good (James 1:13), while human nature is evil and wicked (Jer 17:9, James 4:1). Because of this, God's wrath for us in our natural state is proportionate to our shortcomings. It has to be, because his wrath is fair and just.

God is to be feared (Ecc 5:7). This is for a few reasons. One of which is that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10, Ps 111:10). Another is that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). He is to be feared because he is powerful enough to do what he promises (Jer 32:17) and promises eternal punishment apart from Christ (Matt 25:46)

God is also consistent (Mal 3:6). This means that he does not change, and has not changed throughout eternity. This also means his wrath is consistent, in the new and old testament (Jer 30:23, Nahum 1:2, Rom 1:18, Rev 19:15). 

God is also love (1 Jn 4:7-8). Not just any old love, but patient, kind, unconditional and never-ending love (1 Cor 13). God loved us so much that even while we were still sinners (Rom 5:8) he sent his son to die for us, so that all who believed in him could have eternal life (Jn 3:16). 

God's wrath is satisfied in Christ (1 Tim 1:15). Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and to fulfill the law that previously was impossible to fulfill by humanity (Is 64:6, Matt 5:17-20). See because Jesus lived sinless (2 Cor 5:21), he was the perfect sacrifice and fulfillment of law that was needed for us to be atoned. 

Allow me to leave you with this encouraging word:

Vanity - Importance of humility

It's important to be humble. Reason being more than just being seen as humble, but that when we are humble here on earth, we're storing up treasures in heaven. I don't want to make every biblical command sound like a direct relationship like it all correlates perfectly and proportionally. There are a few things like that however, and this is one of them.

Being one of the seven deadly sins, Pride is pervasive and take place in many different forms. In particular, vanity is defined as excessive pride in one's own appearance or achievements. 

And it's easy to be vain! If we've done something that we consider a great achievement, it's natural to feel proud about it. Whether this be our bodies, our cars, our homes, our children, or whatever it is that's ours. 
However it's important to remember that we truly don't own anything, especially not our own bodies. In the 1 Corinthians 6

So we can do anything, in this includes being proud and vain and loving ourselves like there's no tomorrow, but not everything is good for us or beneficial. In fact it says in other places of the Bible that being drunk, being vain, sewing seeds of anger and rage, only produce bad things in our lives. These would fall under things we could technically do, but are not worth it in the end. 

Is 12:2 says this. And and John 14:6 says that Jesus is the only into heaven. However Vanity can creep in and promise that our achievements are worth more than salvation. That what we pursue here on earth, whatever it be, is much better than any promise made by the creator of the universe.