End of Regression

“In my dream I am running downhill I trip and fall face first i nto a large pond in front of a forest opening. As I sink underwater I begin to dissolve there is nothing I can do I cease to be. Then I start praying to Jesus and in the woods I see the cross and he pulls me out into the woods and I follow him through a narrow path between trees. Then I wake up.”

 

In a moment my life was expunged from all the filth and in smaller twists of force it still is. I moved from being an angry man who lost sight of his savior climbed countless mountains, and have experienced unreasonable things. And just like that a lonely place of dying surrounds me led by a pretty face, and endless mercy. She came to me when I was the most isolated as Satan often does and she enticed me to enter into the bubble that she wanted me in. Everything was as I wanted as I asked but there was no future every breathe was numbered she was like that feeling of bitter cold and the feeling of going back to school after holiday. Countless  times she professed a dead faith and played her part she even blended in with the crowd. I felt helpless as my attempts to escape were  guarded by  empty death threats, and  metaphoric bomb scares. So I believed this was all I had and no one was coming for me and I was quickly dying. She brought out the worst in me and I became this proud version of myself I knew I had been underneath. I openly flaunted our pride, sex, and vacations including to God while I wanted this endless holiday to continue when it was in full swing I knew it was wrong, and I knew I was living a futile and deeply empty run against and from God. I believed the lie that I was useless and no one was coming. Finally it ended. I left.

The sobering truth hit me and I got up and left. I spent months praying searching for God begging for his wrath to hit me as I felt disqualified as someone who would lead, teach, or just be alive. I knew how wrong I was and that he was there the entire time throughout the lies, secrets, and sin. I wanted nothing more than to just retreat call it a life and become like Luke Skywalker and find that abandoned place to live out. But he had other plans and instead I married the woman I should have pursued, and I have come to the end of being momentless. There is no more time travelling there is no past. There is only the road ahead before me.

 

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Unmasked: Tempting Jesus

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Hollywood, the New York Times, and even mainstream culture has taken liberties with the idea how can Jesus who is fully God, and fully man tempted? It’s an idea that has asked how, but perhaps instead of asking how, but why was Jesus tempted?

The person of Jesus is defined as the God man, the hypostatic union that is the combonation of the union between the divine nature of Jesus with the human element. Genesis 3:15 is the first mention of this as he would be born of woman and not of the conventional means that which would override the sin nature that falls on the shoulders of all image bearers under the headship of Adam the first man. (Psalm 51) The debate of the nature of Jesus has been of much debate as many in the faith have not physically seen him but the scriptures in their inerrant testimony of God’s meta-narrative redemptive movements give complete documentation of who Jesus is. In Matthew 4 and Luke 4 Jesus after being baptized is tempted in the wilderness and the question posed is even as a man how can God be tempted?

Man was created in the image of God in the creation event in Genesis 1 and 2 where God in three persons planned out and made man in his image to reflect him both physically, and spiritually as man was made to be a living spirit. God had man in his image socially as he had given Adam a helper the first woman, Eve whom Adam the first man was set to reflect God in three areas: as a worker, a wise man, and a warrior. These roles were given to Adam to up hold practicing godly wisdom as he is given knowledge and instruction naming animals, and instructing his wife cultivating her in God’s teachings. Genesis 3 marks the change in history where man rebels against God cursing all men are cursed to live in sin, born spiritually dead. (Romans 5:12, Psalm 51) Genesis 3:15 enters in the proto-gospel of the one who will crush the head of the serpent and who will mend the relationship between God and man. The cross itself originated in the mind of Jesus himself as he knew from that moment that he would be brought low become a man, live a life that reflects the one that Adam and Eve were originally intended to live as the last Adam, and dying on the cross atoning the sins of man. Sin is an infection that is deep rooted and is the present in the natural man who is born into spiritual still born state that is opposed to God. At it’s essence it’s ‘the failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.’ (Grudem. 490) It’s root is rebellion and blooms into everything from lawlessness to faithlessness and all in between with the common denominator being death. Sin takes the form of everything from being a piece of fruit that was forbidden to eat, to riches, fame, fun, it’s formless and yet is the shape of anyone’s desire. It’s however the thing that promises quick reward apart from God, and is against God making it’s effects to be devastating to those whom feel the reprocussions.

While sin effects can range from major to minor and often times are overlooked they ultimately are against God at it’s core. (Psalm 51:4) Temptation however is the alluring call to sin that provides foothold into one’s life if they are to accept fellowship with it but is not sin. Jesus is counted as being he who knows no sin but became sin upon the cross for all but is tempted himself in the wilderness in Matthew 4, and Luke 4 the account of which Christ is confronted by sin that offers him temptations that go against the grain offering short cuts in his ministry and are crossless means in which of winning over the world trumping God’s override and destruction of his image bearers.

Jesus himself is the fulfillment of over 300 prophesies concerning his coming, his virgin birth, his life, his ministry, death, and resurrection leading up to the day of the Lord in accurate detail. Jesus is presented as the second member of the trinity as he has provided characteristics in his coming that he only can have in common with God himself that being his omnipotence as he is able to read minds (Mt. 9:4), walk on water (Mt. 14:22-33), raises the dead (Mark 5:21-43, Luke 7:11-17, John 11:1-44) performs miracles having two members of the trinity present at his baptism, providing testimony to his credentials as God. He is also revealed in the transfiguration as being God to his disciples as they are shown Moses, and Elijah in the presence of Jesus transfigured before God the father. (Matthew 17) The evidence surrounding Jesus being fully God and fully man is documented and witnessed by those present and heavenly hosts who proclaimed his coming to the surrounding public. His presence as the messiah sent by God even confirmed being presented at the temple in Luke Chapter 2 the scriptures themselves are presented as the inerrant testimony of God breathed out (2 Tim. 3:16). So the argument of Jesus’s divinity is undeniable, and his birth his capacity to feel and relate in weakness to man is also before us in the scripture that as he lived, breathed, and ate he was fully God and there is no separating the two pieces of Christ’s person.

So how then can Christ as being fully God and man be tempted even if he doesn’t carry the curse, and mark of sin?

God is sovereign and is the same God that under his sovereignty oversaw indirectly Satan enter into the garden to tempted Adam and Eve. Is the same sovereign God that would allow himself to be tempted in the same weakness that brought him low to save his beloved creation while Jesus was fully God he is complete with personality and has displayed full spectrum of emotions, and desires to do the will of the father whom had sent him. As Jesus did not know sin as the first Adam pre-fall didn’t know it either was still armed with the same knowledge of identity, commands from God wasn’t tempted by the normal things that the natural man could be tempted by women, fame, money, finite power the things that sin offers one to gain in place of God as the object of the worship.

Satan is only able to tempt Jesus with short cuts that reveal his character of being finite, but still short cuts that stray from the path to the cross, and into the dead ends of finite broken, and empty avenues of Lordship that yes would provide absolute quick and temporary imitations of peace and security of God’s will but nothing that would provide man with the eternal promise that we do know in Christ but instead would have offered a burned bridge leaving man under the full condemnation of God himself.

The purpose in Christ’s temptation wasn’t a matter of whether or not could Jesus pass the test in order to become messiah he already was the messiah with identity in tact. In fact the purpose of the temptation was to display the power of God’s word and the ability that it has for freedom over sin, and temptation. As Christ was in the wilderness there comes a parallel between the first Adam in paradise in Genesis 3 being tempted and falling, and Jesus the last Adam being the first born of the dead turning to God in the midst of temptation in a barren wasteland distant from God and succeeding. The temptation is set to serve as a model that Jesus set the bar that as distant as one can come from God can still overcome bondage through his word, and submission to his commands.

Philippians 2:5-11 Jesus came in poured out servitude that serves as the bar that one who calls himself a disciple needs to meet. The temptation is meant to serve as the model one needs to come to in the face of temptation leaving people without the excuse to continue in their sin while Christ’s sacrifice pays for it the practice of it by no means should continue. “Satan gives Adam and apple and takes away paradise. Therefore in all temptations let us consider not what he offers but what we shall lose.”- Richard Sibbes. God cannot be tempted (James 1:13) and for God to be subject to temptation is not for the benefit that he himself can beat down on the principalities of darkness which he will eventually do, but rather endure so that he may lead others through trials as an example to imitate that reflects God himself into the darkest places.

Forgiveness: An Open Letter

Remember back to a time when you had gotten the worse sunburn that you can ever imagine getting in your whole life. Remember the sting, and how no matter how much Aloe you applied it was like a drop of water in a desert in the moment of agony. Then the skin starts to peel, and there is this exposed new skin that starts to dry, and feel more like sand paper, and in some cases the burn was so bad that your skin still burned. Now imagine that dry brittle skin doesn’t go away because there is this one brand of Aloe that you need to take in order for the pain to go away this sounds too good to be true right?

Sign me up for a cure all to sunburn, or sunblock. This is how unforgiveness plays out our hearts as a metaphorical look at the condition we leave ourselves in as we hold on to pain, grudges, hurt, etc. We become this baron dried up plot of skin, or maybe land would be a better analogy as the dust bowl in the 1920’s would be another good look considering the agricultural themes the Bible carries for us. One of the chief things that the Lord Jesus asked me to do when I professed faith in him was first to forgive my earthly father for what at the time I considered unspeakable atrocities. This was something that I hung  on to for years not wanting to forgive him for anything he said, did, or didn’t do as these were now all things I couldn’t control. This made life very plain, horizontal, and baron with harsh conditions like a harsh sunburn, dried skin, or a desert.

Do you believe that there is any rest in a desert?

We may come to this realization at some point in our lives that our lives are ours, and we can decide things like outcome, and fate, and how others are remembered. While there are momentary things can alter perception, and you may believe that about yourselves, and you are the master of your own destiny. But friends this is just the here and now when Israel wandered through the desert in the pentateuch there was no rest in Israel’s disobedience, and there were no heroes of the day that mapped out their best lives now. God led, directed, and mastered as well as provided, and established his people as he establishes us today.

What is unforgiveness? Popular Blink-182 song ‘Wildfire’ lyrics say this:

“I don’t forget
I don’t forgive
I’ll never change the way I live
I always fought the urge to fall in line
I turned my back on all the rules
I’ll never heed the king of fools
I’ll never lead the perfect kind of life.”

This is a perfect example of the dialogue of thought that manifests as unforgiveness or unrepentanted as this hostility boils out of our hearts as this were all defilement of humanity comes from the heart (Matthew 15:11). This is generational, and transcultural in nature so don’t think your aggressor is an anomaly as in the eternal view of things humanity as a whole is the anomaly when it relates to God who is holy and thus set apart from relating to us in this way. Unforgiveness is also a lifestyle as seen in the lyrics above this comes from years of hardness, rebellion, and sin that has dried in the heart like cement as this is what becomes of hoarders of forgiveness we become what we don’t want. We become like our aggressors, bitter, and often alone and apart from God. This is counter intuitive to those who do believe because this defies love which is the eternal currency of Christianity John 3:16, John 13, as it prevents the eventual  flow of those whom Christ calls into himself because he laid his life down in love to redeem, and love a once lost humanity forever.

Forgiveness also kills pride and in the West we are taught to be bigger, and bigger because we are more powerful. Corporate America demonstrates this ideology in the culture that they cultivate in the workplace we are groomed on all fronts to be winners at all costs in everything we do. There is no room for sorry in this closed system or forgiveness in terms with this culture which is why we demonstrate such fear, and hostility because it’s always easier to fight back, keep moving, or get revenge than it is to eat the costs of our offenses. It would then make more sense because the pain we carry is less if we engage these routes we can always say that we forgive as the words themselves can carry your name in text, or social media as a quick facebook message can do the trick as it requires no sacrifice on your end and you can still be the hero in your own right. Right? Why say what you don’t mean? Why give someone a gift if you don’t want to give them one? When we don’t forgive someone we indeed ingest spiritual poison that slowly eats away at us and while we are the ones that rage those who have hurt us do not share in this. Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 18:21-35 of the unmerciful servant whom is forgiven of this insanely large debt out of mercy given from the judge. Only to turn around and not forgive the debt of another shortly after being forgiven of much more himself only to be thrown in jail anyway for his hardness of heart, and unforgiveness to another. God forgives us of much more than anyone in this world can ever owe us, and because we are forgiven of much we too can than like Paul in Philippians 4 be joyful much and set our minds on things that are more restful than the pain, and debts others owe us.

You have no karmic duty to uphold, and no cultural superstition that plays out in this world so there is no shame in feeling hurt, grieving, or not being okay. You can allow yourself to be a mess, and mess up because you don’t have to grow old and become this bitter old dinosaur that doesn’t give out halloween candy, or relives his past life well into his 40’s and beyond chasing the rage, or disassociating yourself until you become a shell of who you once were. Jesus didn’t die for you when you were at your best but he died for you when you were and are a mess so he can be your best. So you have this freedom to allow him to wear the hurt of your aggressors, and the shame you carry as an aggressor, or expose those areas to you if you truly have a wonderful life in the here and now.

Forgiveness is not a one and done thing someone of us reading have been through serious trauma, deep pain, and have lost more than we can imagine or maybe you know someone close to you in this kind of Agony. It isn’t something that you can give in haste or give in quantity there may be steps you need to take in which you can lay this down in it’s entirety, but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible or not worth trying or something that should be done half heartedly because we know the Bible commands us, and because God has forgiven us of much more. It’s a journey you take one step at a time with Christ and one that may leave you repeating steps, or writing that letter to your aggressor or whom ever has hurt you everyday, or forgiving them moment to moment so your heart doesn’t abscess. It’s worth venturing because you will experience the freedom in Christ and the life abundantly that he promises in him when we dive in and follow him.

Calm seas have never shaped the greatest, but it’s worth travelling. So who do you need to forgive? And what is preventing you from forgiving them? What do you gain in Christ by forgiving them?

 

 

“Wildfire” performed by Blink-182, written by Mark Hoppus, Matt Skiba, Travis Barker, and John Feldman. Copyright 2017. All Rights owned by Blink-182.

 

Eternal Playlists With No End

 

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Banjos pluck as the band queues and rest of the set and music falls into place, and dust settles, and from now is all that is on your mind. Or maybe your band is on recording, and the CD, or Vinyl is caught itself in a loop, and your favorite song is stuck in a never ending build up. For me it’s the bridge in the middle of the song, ‘I Believe’ by REM where there is soft hum of the bass guitar and Michael is softly humming. Have you ever felt like your life is a series of hums? Or maybe you’re walk with God is a series of soft whispers as you’re listening into your telephone for a rhythm for God’s voice as you’re crying out in prayer?

I mean you can be sure that there was something at some time that led you to the course you’re on with him? Philippians 1:6 states that he who has begun a good work will see it completed on the day of Christ Jesus. Great! God has my life figured out and I don’t as we may not be sure where we will sleeping tomorrow night? Or where we will be getting our next meal from as we haven’t figured out the next few moments of our lives. Perhaps when we were children we asked to aim for the stars with our aspirations for our futures, and wish on a star so we come up with these large out of this world standard of what western, or even modern life has to offer. Maybe you saw yourself as a pro athlete, scientist, politician, person considerable interest, with no worries, or no considerable debt.

Perhaps your life was consequence free, and you could go from relationship to relationship, and decide to live anywhere with anyone. But life is in serious plateau with potential decline just like in the ‘Friends’ theme song, ‘It’s like your life is always stuck in second gear.’ How awesome that the universal aspect of being human really does speak beyond borders that lead to oceans with no end where Christ is the center where we exhume the depths of his mercy, and his love. This is different then from what we typically view love, success, and progress as we can remain at this stalemate where they can remain for an unsubscribed amount of time, and still find themselves in the fold of God in heaven. You have probably seen those memes floating around social media, or other Christian merchandise that reassure you that others in the Bible have waited in a season of life until God put their lives into gear and drove it into town where he unveils his purpose for them. While the cheese radar may go off this does hold true to what the Bible says about God being faithful to finish what he’s started with those he’s chosen.

But while we can remain as we are until our lives descend into the water park metaphor previous discussed we can come into this home stretch from really any walk of life. 1 Corinthians 3:12-13 goes into detail how beggars and kings go before God and will ultimately find themselves before him. There is no rush. Perhaps you need to realize that there is an imperfection on the album of your life, a scratched CD, or nicked vinyl doesn’t play music as it should it skips over key pieces of the audio making it rather un-listenable to the audience you lose rhythm, and momentum in the process, and you are left with garbled noise. This goes hand in hand with being salt and light attractive means in which truth is received, transported, and communicated. There is no repairing an album once it’s ruined but we are not hardware, and have means in which to get back on track.

We are provided one who has washed the imperfections from our souls with his blood so the records to our hearts, and souls eternal sing his praise. Jesus died for you not out of obligation because nothing was owed to him by us, and there is certainly nothing that we could give him that he truly can benefit from. Romans 3:23 shares how we fall short of his glory but in John 3:16 we fall well within his grace, and priority for baring the cross. My favorite imagery from any TV show is when the jukebox starts to skip and either ‘The Fonz’, or another character nudges it back on track. For the believer our petitions to be right with God, and before him is like allowing ourselves to submit to his refurbishing process so when you are in a place of constant skipping, and 2nd gear speed you are just a prayer away from being nudged back onto the symphony of worship that glorifies him.

Perhaps you’re not in Christ’s record collection and your life resembles one that needs a little extra love, and elbow grease. You might even contrast your album to being a Slayer album or maybe a Blink record compared to a Christian that you may see as Folk music, and Anne Murray records. While you’re broken at this moment you’re not lost as a lost soul is one that recognizes his distance and doesn’t come where you may be just a few scratches away from sounding like your favorite band in their prime crisp and new by trusting in Christ. You are probably like I was at one point and think well Christ wouldn’t listen to my music, I like dark gothic, or weird stuff that’s really vulgar why would this mix with faith in Christ. Christ calls you as you are, and his record collection contains an eclectic mix of people, and sounds that range throughout creation so you have room to be loved.

What track of your life are you on?