Wird Geladen

Lessons from my own bible study

Archive for the tag “jesus”

Colossians 1:9

9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s[a] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding

Because Jesus declares “ask and you shall receive”,  asking for something in Christ’s name carries an inherent expectation. In prayer, asking is the same as receiving- in specific claiming what is already ours. At a library you know you can take any book you want, and it’s the librarian’s job to go and get that book for you. Mathematically, asking for a book at a library is  the same as getting the book- it’s claiming what is already available to you.

This power originates from a spirit of submissiveness on the part of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. In Colossians 3:18-4:1 Paul instructs all Christians to be serviceable and submissive to one another. It blows my mind to think that that same Spirit of submissiveness which calls us to serve one another is alive- personified, even- in the Holy Spirit. We Christians work together to support and serve one another; Jesus and the Holy Spirit are absolutely not exempt from that expectation. This is why Peter calls Jesus the paragon of serviceable shepherding (1 Peter 5:4). 

We can let the Spirit serve us. We can allow Jesus to wash our feet and give of himself for our edification. It is only fair, if we are committed to serving Him, that Jesus should serve us. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would do one great deed of service and then be like “OK I did my part- now work for me for free for the rest of eternity.” Christianity is a partnership, a marriage, between us and God. I’m going to work on growing my expectations of the Holy Spirit. I encourage us all to stretch the limits of our understanding of give-and-take with the Holy Spirit, and watch how fulfilling the relationship can truly be. 

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This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series

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1 Corinthians 2:4-5

4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Practically, Paul was invoking the power of God to accomplish his goal. He wasn’t relying on God’s wisdom, which he certainly had lots of. He wasn’t relying on what he had learned, or discerned, or anything the Spirit had taught him. He only used what he knew empirically: the power of God will work to my end. It’s the difference between saying “My sword is sharp” and cutting something with your sword. We, too, can pull out the power of God. It’s there in the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge which are already inside of us. We too can yield it for direct, active, visible results in our lives. Paul did not use words. He used God. He attacked his problems head on, wisely basing his ministry on the confidence that when he pulled out his product to do the job, it would work. And not just work, it would amaze. He’s freakin Billy Mayes with Jesus.

What I’m saying is, when we’ve got an issue, or a problem, or something we need God’s help with, we don’t need to keep chanting “God knows how to fix it! God knows the answer!” Get at it and use the power of God to fix it! Our faith is based on God’s POWER. Use it.

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This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series

Proverbs 2

I recommend reading the whole chapter. We will focus on v. 10-11:

 

10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
    and understanding will guard you.

Discretion is the ability to tell what’s right and what’s wrong. As we plumb the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, our own powers to know the right thing to say and do will grow. Imagine getting better at being right. Imagine changing into the kind of person who doesn’t say stupid things or get into trouble by rash and callous actions. As the wisdom of God makes us more and more sensical, we’ll carry others along with us.

Jesus- who knew the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God- understood and saw more than any other man who ever lived. He saw through the Pharisees’ traps, but he did not use his understanding to increase his popularity nor to make them look foolish in front of a crowd. He always took the middle ground, in which no one lost face but the fools were still rebuked. “Give to Cesar what is Cesar’s (Mat 22:15-22)” “Let whoever has not sinned cast the first stone (John 8:7).” His answers were the exact right thing to say, with no room for improvement. They are the kind of  acuity that people notice, and follow. Because the wisdom of God is a part of each one of us, we know rightness when we see it. As we display the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, people will take notice, learn from that, be encouraged and enabled. 

Imagine being that good at being alive. We already are. We can use God’s wisdom to make right choices every day as we develop in ourselves the almighty power of Discretion.

This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series

Romans 11:33

33 O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Those depths are  a part of us. Imagine that chest from Harry Potter. Open up the first keyhole, it’s got some clothes in it. Open up the second key hole there’s whatever. Third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and then  get to the seventh keyhole and it’s a tunnel! The depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God are not outside of ourselves but within, available and brimming with the Christ Truth of all things. Paul says “Oh! My God! The depths of that cavern which in my heart holds your riches and wisdom and knowledge…I can’t even…I don’t…” He speaks as if he’s seen it.

Within those depths I believe lives every other human soul. Since those depths are inside of us, then we are all a part of one another as part of God. One. Jesus knew the depths of his soul. He alone had gone to the walls, and knew the layout of the inside of the Cave of Wonders in his heart. That’s how he was able to connect with every living person on the planet. That’s how he is able to love us- because he knows us there. That’s how Jesus healed the sick, too. He saw the healthy person inside of every sick person, and called out “Come up here!” We all have this power. The deeper into the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God we go, the further out into the world we spread, and the more we connect to it, heal it, and love it.

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Isaiah 40:12

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
    and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure,
    and weighed the mountains in scales
    and the hills in a balance?

These are big images: all the water on Earth fitting in the palm of a hand; that same hand stretching across the sky. The same with the mountains laying on scales. The images we get are of a very BIG God, and a very small Earth. They’re also images of a careful creation: measurement, checking, balances and scales and preparations. This passage speaks about the perfection of God, his design dwarfing us. Wisdom is all about pulling back, standing in awe of the work of the Spirit, and realizing that we are a part of something much bigger than Self.

Mitochondria and single-celled amoebas existed for a million years until one day the two got together and starting living inside one another, which was the tipping point of the creation of eukaryotes, and us, and this blog. The two had no way of knowing what would come of their unification at the time. With the Web cinching up all of humanity, negating time and space from our interactions, perhaps we are the next tipping point. The more I understand, the more I get the idea that we are part of a whole- a cog- working in the cosmos as God has designed it for His purpose and to His glory (James 1:18). It is not reasonable to assume that we are nameless pieces, though. Jesus is 100% involved in each of our consciousnesses and lives (James 4:5). That same dust God measured in scales, He added his breath to. We are each a part of Him, and  necessarily possess the wisdom and understanding which went into building our world in the first place.

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This is part of the Word of Wisdom Series.

Job 28 (Part of the Word of Wisdom Series)

Yes! So many good things in here.

Who: Job

What: Compares jewels/gold to wisdom/understanding

Why: “[Wisdom] cannot be bought with the finest gold.” v. 13

Here’s some great pull-out quotes:

“But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? Man does not comprehend its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living (v. 12-13).” Certainly in our culture today, apparently in Job’s thousands of years ago, wisdom and understanding are not prized. People spend so little effort, or maybe I should say so few people spend a great deal of effort, actually trying to become wise, and gain understanding of their world and life. We disregard wisdom and understanding; we just don’t get how important, useful, valuable, wonderful, precious, terrible, difficult, rare, majestic, helpful, valuable,  worthwhile they are. Now gold, on the other hand, rubies, sapphires, silver, iron, ore, oil, cast, bitches, TV’s, paintings, end tables, rugs, cars, houses, registered breed dogs, fancy maps, bedknobs and broomsticks- we’ll scratch and beat our way through years and years of solidified shit to get our hands on. We forsake what is valuable and truly hard to get for what is fleeting and within our reach. Job says “Neither gold nor jewels can compare with [wisdom] (v. 17),” in terms of beauty and worth. Actual worthiness. Actual value. Truth. True meaning- wisdom has some, gold has none.

“God understands the way to [wisdom] and he alone knows where it dwells (v. 23).” In fact it says, when God was setting up the Earth, at the very beginning when he was measuring out the waters and calculating the gale force speed for the wind and such, he was also organizing wisdom. It is a precious resource in this world just like the oceans, the rain, the ore, the gold. “He looked at [wisdom] and appraised it; he confirmed and tested it.” This is metallurgy imagery. Appraisals, like diamonds, measured for worth; testing, like gold, measured for strength and purity. God worked on this wisdom just like we men work on gold. You can practically hear the clang of his hammer on the anvil, beating understanding into shape. You can smell the burning and the sweat on his brow as he worked, truly expended effort, to clarify and perfect the wisdom and understanding which would fill up this world. Gold he simply laid down on the ground; the wisdom he made. And then he gave it to us. He told us where to go to find it. “He said to man ‘The fear of the Lord- that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding (v. 28).'”

Well I have not been shunning evil. I have feared the Lord, I think. But I have no understanding yet, of what that means. What it means is that I shun evil. To fear the Lord means to be on his side. A respect, hunger, appreciation, use of all things good is wisdom. Understanding this world, how we live in it, how it works for us, how we work for it, begins and ends with casting evil out of it. We are not made for evil. Gold is not made for evil. The rocks and stones and dust and leaves and animals are not made to interact with evil. We’ve got to understand that evil is anathema to the smooth running of our world (metaphysical plane). Shun it. Get it out. One man at a time turn your back on evil and make it leave- send it down to the depths to dwell with the gold and iron-ore. Shun evil, and wisdom shall prevail. “It means to have respect and reverence for God and to be in awe of his majesty and power. That is the starting point to finding real wisdom.”

“Miners put an end to darkness, and search out to the farthest bounds for the ore in gloom and deep darkness (v. 3).” Look what we’re willing to go through to get this junk. We gladly, eagerly, descend into gloom and darkness. We subject ourselves to utter misery, “far from where people dwell…they sway suspended, remote (v. 4)”, in search of these riches.

Another interpretation of (v.13) says “Mortals do not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living.” Men do not have wisdom to give and share. Reading philosophy books or looking to leaders and thinkers is no way to find a path through life. They are blind leading the blind. “No leader can produce enough insight to explain the totality of human experience.”  A complete view of us humans, our lives and everything included in it, is available to God. “He looks to the ends of the Earth, and sees everything under the heavens.” We, therefore, can also see that. We can see where we are going, form plans, ideas, prioritieswe can get things right! Gold gives us no method of achieving that. I gives no achievement whatsoever. Nothing we can possibly buy or read or forge in fire or program on a computer can give us that insight. Only The Bible. “When looking for guidance, seek God’s wisdom as revealed in the Bible. To be lifted above and beyond the boundaries of life, we must know and trust the Lord of life.” To be lifted above and beyond the boundaries of life.

This has been part of the Word of Wisdom Series

Centering our Conversations on God

“Preach the gospel always, with words if necessary.”  -St. Francis of Assisi

I have not come to baptize but to preach the gospel. And not with eloquent words, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
                                                                                                                1 Cor. 1:13

The job and directive of a God-centered life is to proclaim the Gospel. But Paul says he preaches not with eloquent words. One does not have to be talking about God to have a God-centered conversation. Saying God’s name out loud is not the most practical way of communicating Christ by our speech.  Nor is it the most effective, really.  We say God’s name more times a minute simply by building others up.

Let no evil come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
                                                                                                              Ephesians 4:29

Consider that everyone has pain that they’re not sharing with the world- pain that’s hiding just below a fake smile. This is a pain we cannot reach, but which Jesus can most certainly heal. Whether they know it or not, they’re waiting to hear God’s name- as there is need. And whether we know it or not, our conversations are an opportunity for us to give grace to someone who’s hurting, even in the simplest way. Literally to bring Jesus to them.

We do this by encouraging one another. Be Loving. Patient. Kind. Inclusive. Polite. Constructive. Funny. Pleasant. Helpful. Build people up! Make them smile! Make them glow! God reaches the world through us. We convey His message when we build others up. The impulse to do this comes out of a heart full of the simple wish that everyone should feel the joy of God all the time.

We don’t have to fake smile in order to do this. We should never deny our own emotions for the sake of letting someone else have a good day. Paul tells the Ephesians “Be mad, but do not sin (Eph 4:26).” Whatever our mental state, we must first and foremost preach God’s name. And we shall be rewarded for this.

The wages of doing our job are that our hearts become God-centered. It’s a fascinatingly roundabout process (not to mention easy to the point of cheating). A mouth that worships God feeds the heart that worships Him. And the heart that wants to see God worshiped pours forth the words to get the job done. In what may be the most miraculous concept of the entire Bible, Jesus says:

The Word of God feeds you going in as well as going out.*

Short story: yesterday I rode my bike to meet a friend at a café. The place she chose was very far away. The long drive, cold wind, and bad traffic all put me in a terrible mood. In my anger I blamed her for picking somewhere so out of the way, along with a bunch of other things that were actually my fault. I rode along thinking how silly this girl was, imagining all the nasty things I would say once I got there. But then I remembered this sermon. “Saying something nasty to her won’t make either of us feel better,” I thought. “I don’t know what kind of hardship she had in getting here either. It just wouldn’t do any good to be negative. I wonder, if I bring God into our conversation by being encouraging, will my anger and pain disappear?” So I dug down deep, found what little positive vibes I had left in my heart, and poured them out onto her once I arrived. And you know what? It totally worked! I felt instantly better, and we had a great time! Both my heart and hers got filled by the Holy Spirit just as soon as I brought Him into the mix. It was extremely encouraging.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
                                                                                                Luke 6:45

The power of the cross of Christ is that our hearts would be filled with good. A God-centered conversation blesses both the speaker and the listener by building them both up. The Holy Spirit works through a quick, positive word of encouragement in ways we cannot fathom. He moves out from the abundance in our hearts to ease the pain of everyone involved.

Such habits of speech can have no other result than to center our hearts onto God. If we focus our conversations on uplifting whomever we’re speaking to, we’re actually focusing on achieving God’s will and spreading His name throughout the universe. Whenever we concentrate our efforts onto the actions of the Holy Spirit, in any capacity, we are praying. Conversations, hearts, lives- all three will naturally flow toward God as we pray for them to do so.

Encouraging words are the physical manifestation of our desire for others to have God’s peace, and to live a God-focused life. They spring into reality out of the spiritual universe burning inside our own hearts. They lay onto our listeners like a warm breeze on a cool day- a blessing from somewhere else.

Tip #4: Build others up with speech, and our hearts will center themselves on God.

*I was in a rush and didn’t have time to cite this, but I know it’s in there! If anyone knows please write it in the comments

Happy Lent today, dear readers. I hope you find a great church service to go to. Or a beautiful Bible passage to connect you to Jesus’s sacrifice. If you falter in your Lenten resolution, just remember NEVER to beat yourself up over it. Move on and praise God anyway. Amen.

This post has been the new addition in the “Putting God At The Center” Series, a project of learning how we can bring our lives to focus on God.  The three previous posts are: Mealtime PrayerWorshiping God By Worshiping Our Bodies, and We Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To.  Stay tuned for the final installment and please comment, like, and share!

Mealtime Prayer

Praying before we eat is one of the simplest ways I can think of for getting God into the center of our lives.

It waters our relationship with God

Paul is referring to the Corinthians’ failure to pray before eating when he says:

For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
Paul1 Corinthians 11:30

He implies that praying before every meal builds us up and makes us strong, both in faith and life.  Just as food is central to our lives, culture, and survival, so is the prayer that comes before it.  If we let God bless our food, we let Him also bless our lives, culture, and survival.

Mealtime prayer is an act of worship

Food sits before us, our appetite tells us to eat, eat, eat!  By sacrificing these impulses for just a few seconds to consider God and thank Him for his goodness, we affirm that we choose God first (I wrote earlier that we worship whatever we sacrifice to).  Mealtime prayer is an exercise of obedience through which we display our love and appreciation for Him who loves and appreciates us.

Meals offer us built-in check points with God throughout our day

Praying before each meal is the perfect opportunity to align ourselves with God’s peace, joy, and love.  Three times a day, they’re an opportunity/reminder to thank Him for our blessings, as well as invite Him into our hearts.  Through mealtime prayers we can celebrate God’s gift to us in short, positive bursts.

(I’d like to add here that a few weeks ago I put an alarm in my phone to ring at 3:00 every day- when it goes off and I stop whatever I’m doing and just say a short thanksgiving for letting me be where I am, doing what I’m doing, safe and sound.  I call it “Hour of Prayer”, and it has really be uplifting for me, so I recommend it to my readers as well!)

We must understand that sacrificing a few seconds before each meal is only going to be done, and thankful prayers only going to be prayed, if we truly delight in God’s warmth.  Thus mealtime prayer also allows us to constantly consider where our hearts lie.

“Examine yourselves, and only then eat the bread and drink the cup.”
  Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:28

Is God important enough to my heart that He comes before food?  Am I fully aware of the wonderful miracles Jesus has wrought in my life that brought me to this table here and now?  Do I understand what those miracles mean for me eternally?  Do I care?  Asking ourselves these questions three times a day will certainly yield answers, and quickly too.

Mealtime prayer nourishes our relationship with God.  We worship Him by sacrificing the time.  We remind ourselves what good things He’s done for us over the course of the day.  We consider our position in Him.  These three acts together bring us out of ourselves and focus our minds on God instead- both in the long and short term.  When we pray before we eat, we scoot closer to God in ten-second bursts.  It’s a powerful habit that will very quickly put Him at the center of our lives.

Tip #3- Make a point to pray before every meal, giving thanks to Jesus for His gift of freedom to us, and assuring God that we want Him to be at the center of our lives. 

The problem I have with all of this is that I can never remember to actually do it!  Praying before I eat is not a habit of mine yet, so I always end up sitting there after I’m finished thinking “Oh man, I should have prayed first!  I’ll get it next time.”  How do you remember to pray before meals?  What kinds of tips can you offer other readers to improve their (and my!) consistency in mealtime prayer?  Your comments will add huge value to this series!

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This post has been the new addition in the “Putting God At The Center” Series, a project of learning how we can bring God to the center of our lives.  You can read the previous two posts:  Worshiping God By Worshiping Our BodiesWe Worship Whatever We Sacrifice To, as well as the project directive.  Stay tuned for the next installment, and please comment, like, and share!

Why Atheism Makes Sense

Isaiah 55 is a really nice chapter of encouragement for anyone who needs to hear the promise of God’s goodness for their life.  Maybe you want to go read it before moving on?

Sometimes I try to understand why someone might conceivably be an Atheist.  Reading Romans, and understanding the social plights of Jesus as laid out in the four gospels, gave me an idea.  The old time prophets were constantly being persecuted and murdered because people did not like what they were saying.  The prophets told the Jews that soon God would “get over them” and go to the gentiles instead, like the quarterback of the high school football team getting fed up with Brittany’s drama and dumping her for her arch-cheerleading-rival Kelly.  If gentiles learned about God, the religious superiority the Jews used to identify themselves as a race would fall flat, and in a spirit of almost pure obduracy the Jews persecuted the prophets instead of checking themselves before wrecking themselves.  A similar type situation led to Jesus’s crucifixion.  It’s actually an awesome story with an extremely predictable and pathetic ending.  That kind of behavior amounts to putting the alarm clock on snooze instead of just waking up.  I call it “emotional inertia”, meanwhile God is trying to lift us against gravity.

In Romans 11:1-16 Paul expounds that the Jews’ historical unpleasantness toward God was actually part of God’s plan all along; basically that God has been manipulating the Jews into hating Him for thousands of years in order that the Gentiles should have the opportunity to hear and believe Jesus’s story first (for all I know this is still going on).  Once all the gentiles are won over, Paul writes, the Jews will be released from their prison of unbelief and be allowed to hear and believe the gospel themselves.  Then human beings will have reached their ultimate goal and, I guess, the second coming will occur.  This, combined with the unfortunate story of Judas and even Jesus’s own crucifixion, suggest that God is a King who has no problem using the ones he loves to achieve His own means, seemingly even to their detriment.

Taken in this respect there’s no wonder it’s hard for some people to believe in God as the benevolent do-gooder He’s touted as.  He’s a bastard.  A Machiavelli.  But then again, that argument is flawed for the simple reason that it assesses the character of God on the same level it assess a human being.  I think that accepting Paul’s theory (truth?  theory?) gives insight into the real reason it’s so hard to be a Christian:  Christianity really means you have to be OK with being nothing, subservient, minimalized, marginalized, completely crushed under God’s thumb; a pawn, as it were.  The faith part of Christianity comes in concluding that that’s somewhere you want to be.  In order for God to be glorified in your life your human part has to be choked and shrunk into nothingness.  This subservience and minimization of self is attainable because we are human but we are also God, by nature One with Him.  The human spirit is a vessel, and if there is less humanness in it there can be more God.  (Jesus was the first and only human to be full of God and empty of humanness, part of the purpose of His coming being to prove that such a thing was actually possible, whereby providing humanity a role model- a gift that was almost universally ignored.)  So then pursuing God really means pursuing getting smaller- an anachronism.  Nobody reads to get dumber.  Nobody tries in order to get worse.  It’s hard for people to grasp, and even harder for people to let happen, so that’s why so few people can be Christians.  You really have to be OK with the fact that you are nothing.  A friend of mine once explained to me why he doesn’t believe in God:   “Because there are buildings full of people in chronic pain.  There are people born into terrible situations that they’ll never escape and have no choice in.  If there were a God that wouldn’t happen.”  This, of course, is not an argument for why there is no God.  This is simply an argument for why YOU are not God.  A part of Christianity is faith, and a part of it is acceptance.  If you can swallow it when God says in Isaiah 55:8-9 “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, my ways are higher than yours, and my thoughts are higher than yours,” then and only then can God begin to work in your life.  Christianity truly is for the minds of children, as no adult would allow himself to be talked to like that.  Acceptance of our nothingness is the caveat to actualizing the rest of Isaiah 55, and really probably should have been mentioned earlier than page 644.  It’s the hazing ritual to get into the club.  Admit to nothingness and you empty yourself so that you can be refilled by God.   Isaiah 55-56 gives us an idea of what that would be like.  Who would deny that that is desirable?  Who could deny that they want their political leaders, financial power figures, social role models, parents, and friends to be on board that train?  Let alone be on board themselves?  Is it even possible to argue for anything else?  Is it useful?  Is it advisable?

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On The Pursuit of Your Passions, Acts 20

Now that I’m in my just-out-of-college years I have a lot of freedom.  To be whatever I want, to do whatever I want, to live wherever I want.  But that freedom comes with a heavy weight- I need to be pursuing my passions.  I need to figure out how I can turn my life into the thing I want it to be.  Music, theater, writing, those are the things that I want to do, and failing to achieve those goals would be…very disheartening.  The pressure to pursue my passions without getting lost or flagging in enthusiasm has weighed on me for a long time, even before I graduated college.  I don’t think I speak only for myself when I say that I used to labor under the miraculous idea that God would give me the life I dream about if I lived righteously, and maybe prayed once in a while.  That would be my reward, as it were, for being a Christian.  Paul tells me this is not quite accurate.  A little while ago I had the realization that the goal of getting to know God is not to satisfy my own desires, but to contribute to His Kingdom [LINK].  In Acts, Paul reiterates this truth, but expands on it to explain how, if we pursue knowledge of God not for our own sake for the sake of getting to know God, it actually will result in living the life we crave.  Confusing.  Here’s what he says:

I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me.  But I do not count my life of any value to me unless I may finish my course and ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus to testify the good news of God’s grace.”  Acts 20:23-24

20 second context: Paul has been traveling around to various towns telling people the laws of Judaism are outdated- Jesus is the new black.  This infuriates the Jewish leaders who intend to kill him first chance they get.

Life, Paul says, is testifying to God’s good grace.  That’s what a true life is.  “I count my life as nothing unless I finish my course that I received from Jesus Christ.”  These passions of mine- these goals that I know if I could just find a way to make money with music, theater and writing I would be happy- they are not a life.    They are the illusion of life, the magic forest that people who are lost wander through without ever getting to Oz, or Heaven, or whatever you want to call it.  Life is testifying God’s good grace.  But man that seems like a lot of work.  Am I gonna have to give everything up to become a minister so I can testify God’s grace professionally?  No.  Do I have to go knock on doors and tell people the good news of Jesus Christ?  No.  What then?  In order to testify God’s good grace we only have to celebrate God in our hearts- then God will shine out of them and do His own testifying!  Now, is it possible for a sad, miserable, discontented, unsatisfied person whose passions and dreams have failed by the wayside to joyfully celebrate God in his heart?  No.  Then doesn’t it stand to reason that the only way a person could testify the goodness of God in his heart (which, remember, means to bring renown to God’s name, which is the purpose of our creation), the only way he could do that is if God gave him something to celebrate in the first place?  This is quite the case as we shall see.

“I count my life as nothing unless I may finish my course and ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus to testify the good news of God’s grace.”   Jesus is not only aware of the passions in our hearts- aka our personal ministry- but he actually gave them to us!  (this is backed up in the old testament when God told the Israelites “I gave you your name (that is, your essence, your you-ness) in the womb.”)  Our passions aren’t accidents.  They don’t conflict with the will of God- they are the will of God.  But in order to know the will of God you’ve got to know God; in order to truly understand your passions you need to understand God, and that’s where the whole “pursuing God for the sake of knowing God” comes in.  When our passions are satisfied then our hearts grow full of joy- happiness is a necessary byproduct of knowing God.  A man who understands that his passion has been satisfied by God will be full of joy for what God has done for him- true joy, accurate joy.  From thence his heart will overflow and God will shine out of it, bringing renown to his name and lighting up the entire world.  That’s what Paul means when he says “the ministry that I received“- we minister to the world when we love our God.  God will not only give you your passions, and clue you in to what they are, but he will also help you achieve them, all so that you may be happy of heart and celebrate the fact that the wonderful God did such a thing for you.

But how can God lead us to fulfill our passions and glow with joy for His goodness unless- unless- we know him deeply and pursue His knowledge and open up our hearts to let Him work?  The more I learn about God, the more I learn about myself- the more I see what I love, what I hate, what I fear, what I need.  Most interesting of all is how I’ve changed.  In the last few months God has taught me new passions, and stripped away old ones, and the funniest thing is that I feel the passion of my heart getting closer and closer to something that could genuinely contribute to his kingdom- this blog being a good example.  Thus I’m starting to see the truth behind what I said earlier:  pursuit of God happens for the betterment of His Kingdom, not myself, but also that my personal happiness turns out to be a happy “coincidence” alongside that.   Knowing God isn’t a mental thing.  It’s not like knowing about Hamlet or how to work a microwave.  Like I said before, God is a who, not a what.  You give something to God and He will give right back to you.  You give Him your heart and He will give you His.  You get to know God in order that you two can trust each other, work together, fuse, meld;  Our true nature is oneness with God.  The closer you get to Him the more you get back to what you really are; the more whole and complete you become.  You learn about God so that you can know and recognize His blessings and His ideas for what would make your heart celebrate the most, at which point he will give you ever necessary resource to make those ideas into reality.  Damned if He won’t.  Then your life will be happy regardless of what happens because your passions and the things that satisfy you will always be in line with what God has to give you.

Paul says here that the real way to live your life is not to pursue your passions, but to pursue God, in whom the realization of your passions lives and waits.  All other life, it seems, is store brand Pop-Tarts.  Pursue God, learn about him, date Him, read the Bible for 20 minutes every day.  If you do this God’s way will become your way and you won’t believe how much better your life will become.  You’ll never go back.  I’m living proof.

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