Sunday, July 31, 2016

Failing's Not Just For Failures

    This week was our church's VBS, and somehow, I have become our team's consistent skit villain. I was the prodigal son, a selfish king, Balam, and Peter denying Jesus, all in the past two weeks. I hope that doesn't say anything about my reputation!

     But one of my parts was Peter denying Jesus from Mark 14:66-72. It won't be a long post tonight, but I wanted to touch on something I've been thinking about ever since portraying him in that skit. It's very easy to get the feeling after we sin, particularly after falling to the same sin again, and again, and yet again, that we lose our ability to be used by God.

     Reading the story of Peter though says so much to me about God's ability to use us despite our inabilities. Loud-mouthed people, soft-spoken people, gentle people, even pushovers, abrupt, rough, even offensive people, ugly people and pretty people, city people and country people, every one of us with our gifts and our weaknesses, come together into one global army for the purposes of God... and He uses us.

     With our weaknesses and our flaws, with all of that, He uses us. For His purposes and for His glory, despite horrible sin or nagging, small sins, it is His power that shines through the worst of us and the best us, the prettiest and the ugliest. Everything we accomplish is for Him alone and through Him alone.

     Whatever your reason for believing yourself incapable of use by God, I challenge you to read Mk. 14:66-72 and then repeat your reason. It will pale in comparison. God can use a loud-mouthed fisherman named Peter who denied Him three times... He can definitely use you. You're never too far gone or have too many problems for God's use.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Update

    It's been a hard couple of weeks and a busy few days. I know I've been pretty quiet over here, but I just wanted to poke my head in to say that I haven't left. I need to let my mind and heart clear a little bit more before I'm ready to write again. But I will be back very soon! Thanks for reading, everyone!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Test of Discipleship

    "And as they were going along the road, someone said to Him, 'I will follow You wherever You go.' And Jesus said to him, 'The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.' And He said to another, 'Follow Me.' But he said, 'Permit me first to go and bury my father.' But He said to Him, 'Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.' And another also said, 'I will follow You, Lord, but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.' But Jesus said to him, 'No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'" (Lk. 9:57-62)

     My brother called my attention back to some of the more radical passages of Scripture this week. Having to reprocess many of the passages that set me on my journey two years ago has really been a convicting few days, and my poor brother has had to put up with a lot of "I don't know's" and "I had never thought of that"'s. (Thanks, Corey. :)

     Christian has become such an over-used term I avoid calling myself by that name now and try to use the term "follower of Christ"... but no one term has ever caused me to feel as hypocritical as that one does. Really, Taylor? Are you a follower of Christ? A devotee, a disciple, a follower of Jesus? Because if I am, then I should be able to go back and retrace the Jesus of the gospels and see His life in mine, right?

     If I'm honest, you can't. What sense of life change is there in me that sets me apart as someone living for another kingdom? What part of my life tells those in contact with me that I am different, that I am not another teenager fighting to the top of my sport but a disciple of Jesus Christ with a calling that transcends this world? The real question... am I really what I say I am?

     I know salvation is by grace alone through faith, and my failures are washed away in the blood of Christ and that I am raised in new life in Him... but new life for a purpose. New life to speak forth and point to Jesus Christ and to present Him and His love in every avenue of my life. Can I honestly say that I am a follower of Jesus Christ? I have to say that, at this moment, no, I cannot. At best, I am following from afar.

     "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and contemplate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all His possessions." (Lk. 14:26-28, 31, 33)

     If part of Jesus' gospel presentation was a warning to count the cost, I think it can safely be said that following Jesus without personal cost then is not actually following Jesus. I don't say that to take a slap at evangelicals at large today; I say this as a rebuke to myself as much as to anyone. If my life has no trace of cost for the sake of Christ, I have no business saying that I am following Jesus since Jesus' call to discipleship inevitably was joined to a warning of the cost or a call to the radical.

     I'm trying to slowly return my life toward trying to follow after Jesus, being a disciple of His. Not a Christian, but a follower of Jesus Christ. Please pray for me as I'm kinda lost as to what to do. But it's a good kind of lost. :)

   

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Let's Try Something New...

    So, this is a trial video to see if it possible to figure out the transfer of a video from my cheapo phone through Google drive to my computer hard drive to my blog. I would like to start putting some videos on my blog and hope to drastically improve the quality as I figure some things out, but I'm putting up this trial video here. Be forewarned. If you're a photographer or videographer, you may go into a fit and might possibly become suicidal. Don't say I didn't warn you.

video

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Who Will Deliver Me?

    In case you didn't know, I'm not perfect. Surprising, right? Despite what you may have thought, yes, I too sin. Daily. Hourly. And when we narrow the scope of sin to all those things done not for the glory of God, I sin minutely. Constantly. Sometimes sins I feel guilty about, others that shock myself with my callous attitude toward. Some are considered more major than others, others are so small most wouldn't even realize they're a sin. Nevertheless, I am a great sinner.

    Nearly every day, I shock myself at some point with my own callous treatment of other people. That I seem unmoved by some people's pain, or my own impatient, self-righteous treatment of others in day to day life. I'm ashamed of the thoughts that run through my mind, and even more ashamed of the ones I let lie there sometimes and fester when I know they're wrong. I'm ashamed of the words that sometimes spring to my lips, though I catch them before maybe they become audible words. I have been struggling with anger toward God for several weeks now, and the doubts keep coming up.

     I don't say that to ease my conscience by publicly airing my sin; I say that to simply point out that I have sin in my life that I struggle with daily and sometimes have victory over, other times don't. I don't speak this as someone looking back over my past when I used to sin but as someone who right now, today, sins.

     I've written from here before, but it never ceases to amaze me. The book of Romans is such a powerful book that unlocks the gospel of justification by grace through faith in such a way that leaves me utterly astounded by the God of such a gospel. Romans 1-6 explains man's depravity and God's grace in the clearest language in the Bible yet in more depth than anywhere else. Romans 7, Paul's drift changes from the theological concepts of salvation toward the practical living of the Christian life in 7-8.

     It's a long chunk of Scripture from Romans 7, but I think it's extremely pertinent to what I'm going to say and so I'm going to quote quite a long passage here.

     "For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For the good I wish, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good."

      Did anyone else find themselves nodding, "wow, I couldn't have said that better myself, Paul!" That so accurately sums up where I am so often! With Christ in me, there is something in me that drives me toward desiring good and the Holy Spirit is at work sanctifying me and my desires, but there's something in me holding me back. Keeping me down, tempting me, and reminding me of my past failures. The good I want to do and in my head I purpose to do, I so often don't, and I instead practice the very things I detest! How?!

     It's because there is evil dwelling in me in the form of my flesh. There is a part of me that will tempt me and try to draw me back toward the temporary pleasures of sin, and there will be times I give into that side of me. Some seasons of my life, it seems like I never disregard those temptations; other times, I feel great times of victory.

     But what is Paul's answer? Try really hard? Give up? We can see what sounds like apparently hopelessness in Paul's writing here... This is totally me taking license with the Scripture here, but I like to imagine Paul writing this verse and then pausing for a moment overcome with emotion. He just reached the climatic build of man's horrid, desperate condition before God that he has been building through the entire book. I imagine Paul stopping for a moment to ponder the massive consequences of the one little verse.

     "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" That is the climax of the book of Romans. You can see the desperate emotion in Paul's words, the realized helplessness of men fighting against their sin nature alone. But Paul's next words ring out in victory that shatter the hopelessness of the previous verse.

     "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh, the law of sin. Therefore is there now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

     I feel like V from V for Vendetta, "Now for the crescendo!" That statement holds the despair and the victory of the gospel in one fell sweep. Who will set me free? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ! The answer is obviously in who he is thanking!

     Who will set us free from this slavery? Who will cancel the condemnation that comes with the flesh and the wretchedness of who I am? Who is it that will transform my very nature into something completely different, something pleasing to God through righteousness not mine? Jesus Christ.

     Who will set us free from the body of this death? Paul identifies it rightly as death, death in our own wretchedness... who will set us free from this condition? Jesus Christ! In Him, there is no condemnation. There is freedom. There is the power to do what is right. The power to fight victoriously against some of those temptations, against all of them. Will we fail sometimes? Yes. But the power is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.

     Paul is on a roll as he launches into chapter 8. "For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh... And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba, Father!'" 

     In Christ, we are not the same. Thank God, who I am is not defined by what I do but who lives through me. I have not received slavery; I have received adoption. I am defined by who God is through me. Blessed be His name!