perspective

I compare myself to others. I’m trying not to. Here’s how.

How do I deal with my tendency of comparing myself to others? I answered this question to someone else the other day online. Thought I’d share it with you.

My personal how-to is likely different than most.

I’m a very competitive person and although being competitive sometimes helps me, there are problems. On the one hand I get discouraged when I do worse than my peers, or when I do worse than my own personal goals. On the other hand even when I do well, I’ve found (and continue to find) that it creates this arrogance in me that although I don’t say it publicly I pretty much think I’m better than others. Despair or pride.

So two things I do:

  1. Identify the problem as a problem.
  2. Reflect on where my identity really comes from. For me, my identity does not come from my accomplishments. It doesn’t even come from my family, or my friends, or where I grew up. Sure, these things contribute to be a part of me. But when we tear everything away, I am an accepted, appreciated, and honoured child of God. Because of what Jesus did for me, I believe that in the grade-book of God I have an A+. 100%. Not because of what I did but because of what Jesus did for me. And reflecting on this inevitably causes my stress/emotions/discouragement and also my judgmental attitude to fade. I can’t take credit – Jesus did it so I have no reason to be arrogant. I can’t be sad because what matters most is already settled.

After reflecting on this I make some more personal goals, perhaps chat with a friend about it because that helps too, and I move forward with a better perspective of others because Jesus gave me a better perspective of myself.

This applies in all of life. It is in all honesty exactly what I work through. I probably go through this process, dealing with these types of situations, a handful of times a month. It’s what I do. I’ve tried other methods but when I rely on self I either get arrogant or discouraged. And the one-liners like “it’ll be okay – next time” just don’t satisfy me intellectually or emotionally.

I’d encourage you to try something similar.

Did Jesus really rise from death?

Yes.

It’s the best explanation for the basic historical facts. As Greg Koukl explains in this video, it’s the most probable explanation for all the events that happened historically.

Link for mobile users: m.youtube.com/watch?v=dob0Xg1fZdk 

  1. Jesus died on a cross. No chance he just fainted considering the historical practice of crucifixion.
  2. The tomb which Jesus was laid in was and still is empty. If it wasn’t for this the story would have never began. The tomb itself was guarded. There was motive for the opposition to disprove this fact and there was no motive for the disciples to steal it.
  3. The early disciples each experienced an encounter with the risen Christ. This couldn’t be just a vision or just a hallucination; it happened at the same time in front of crowds and the stories aligned.

So Koukl concludes, if you have a dead Jesus, and empty tomb, and witnesses to a resurrection – if you have all these historical facts – then the logical answer is the simple answer: Jesus rose from death.

If someone rose from death, wouldn’t they be worth paying attention to?

What is gossip?

Something I’m learning: gossip is not acceptable regardless of the audience; be it your boss, spouse, or pastor. How do you know if it’s gossip? Check your three ENTS:

Intent – what is the purpose of sharing this info? Does it bring praise to self or God? Does it tear down or build up?

Content – is this info true? Am I stating assumptions as fact? Are the opinions that I’m sharing genuinely my own?

Consent – have I obtained permission to share this info (+ve or -ve) with this audience? Would the discussion be any different if the person discussed was in the same room?

Learn with me.

3 Metaphors To Help Us Understand Christian Repentance

I’ve recently challenged people to learn the meaning of Christian repentance. I might as well describe it a bit, right?

This is important because repentance is good for you, whoever you are, because it goes alongside an important leadership quality, self-reflection. But it’s also important because you can’t be a Christian without practising Christian repentance. It’s a non-negotiable for us.

3 metaphors:

1. A U-Turn

The GPS is frustrated. Things are only getting worse. Home is not straight ahead. You need to turn around.christian repentance

We pick up this metaphor from Acts 26:20 where Paul summarizes his teaching. He says that people should “repent and turn to God”. Christian Repentance is a U-Turn towards God. The Bible is clear that you’re either for God, totally devoted to him, or you are against God. There’s no middle ground. Here’s the important thing – you should constantly be ensuring you are not off-course. But in Christianity there’s only forwards and backwards. Either your actions are for him or against him; towards Jesus or away from him.

This doesn’t mean you suddenly arrive at your destination as soon as your 180 degree turn happens. You don’t suddenly become perfect. But you make a U-Turn. Away from wrong. Towards Jesus.

2. A Tree

This was a common metaphor that Jesus used. For Jesus, the outcome of repentance is bearing good fruit (see Matthew 3:8, & Luke 3:8). Just like a tree, there needs to be internal nourishment to lead to an external good. In Christian repentance, change needs to happen from the inside out. It’s not about behaviour modification. You don’t cut off a maple branch and expect apples to grow. You plant a seed that will one day bear fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
(Galatians 5:22-23a ESV)

3. Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

Death. Then new life. Put sin to death. Live a new life. This is at the core of Christianity. This is the gospel. However, this isn’t just a metaphor but the power behind all Christian repentance. The Bible often talks about the power of the gospel. It’s powerful because all your sin/wrong/shame/failure gets transferred onto Jesus when you make that U-Turn decision towards him. But here’s the really important thing:

You can make the turn towards Jesus, and you can try to get down to the root of your sin issues, but if you aren’t centred in the gospel your efforts will be fruitless.

In the gospel we are not loved because we failed but loved despite our failures.

In the gospel we are not shameless because we don’t sin be we are shameless because Jesus put shame to death on the cross.

In the gospel we do not try hard because we have to but rather God’s Spirit breathes life into us.

In the gospel, we are continually reminded of the love of Jesus and that leads us to love others. We love because we have been loved. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We have life because Jesus put life in us. And we continue Christian repentance regularly because we want to keep turning towards Jesus, remove the weeds from our hearts, and live for the one who lived and died for us.

That’s Christian repentance.

 

// Quick note about comments. I’ve taken down the comments on this blog. I find conversations happen better through fb, email, face-to-face, or even twitter. On most websites, comments aren’t very helpful or edifying. So I’ve removed them. //

Why don’t miracles happen… when we pray?

miracles1

Some people, in an argument against the existence of God, note that miracles don’t happen. People pray everyday for miraculous things to happen, yet God does nothing.

So does that mean God isn’t real?

No. God and miracles are two completely unrelated concepts. It’s like saying the sky isn’t green therefore grass doesn’t exist. When I ask God for something, He can give three answers: yes, no, or later. I can ask my boss for a raise and just because I don’t get one doesn’t mean my boss doesn’t exist.

“But doesn’t Jesus say all our requests to God will be answered?”

Yes, but there’s more to it. Here’s what Jesus said, as recorded by Matthew (chapter 7):

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

If you stop here you may think all Christian prayers get the answer “yes,” but Jesus continues…

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

So why doesn’t God do the miracles we ask for?

John Piper explains Jesus’ words this way: “No, we do not get everything we ask for… because we would in effect become God if God did everything we asked him to do. We should not be God. God should be God… The reason I say that we do not get all we ask is because the text implies this. Jesus says in verses 9-10 that a good father will not give his child a stone if he asks for bread, and will not give him a serpent if he asks for a fish. This illustration prompts us to ask, “What if the child asks for a serpent?” Does the text answer whether the Father in heaven will give it? Yes, it does. In verse 11, Jesus draws out this truth from the illustrations: Therefore, how much more will your Father give good things to those who ask him.”

At first glance, it seemed that Jesus said that God the Father will give to his children everything his children ask. But the text doesn’t say God will give the exact thing that the child asks for. Rather, it says God will give good things to those who ask.

God is smart. God, in his infinite wisdom, knows what we need and what we don’t. He wants us to ask and he will give. The metaphor of child-father is very helpful in this case. If a parent always gives their child all the candy they ask for, then they aren’t being a good parent. God is a good father. He gives good gifts.

Implicit in the act of praying is the idea that the one you are praying to is greater than you. If you could do the miracle yourself you likely wouldn’t be praying. Let’s continue this train of thought. If they are great enough to do miracles, isn’t it also true that they are great enough to have a reason not to perform the miracle in the way you asked? If by praying you accept you can’t handle the situation, isn’t it also true you accept that God is knowledgeable enough to know how to handle the situation?

Prayer isn’t an easy thing to explain. I’ve said before it’s like the way light is both a particle and a wave. A particle and a wave are contradictory things. It is impossible to be both but that’s what scientists observe. Prayer is like that with apparent contradictions. It gets a little mind bending. But we aren’t called to understand all the complexities of God, we are simply encouraged to pray.

Keep praying. Keep praying to the one who is great enough to know when the best answer is no.

 

Why is this 3 minute video so good?

Watch the entire video and then continue reading. It’s worth the watch!

So why is this video so compelling? Why is it so moving?

Let me tell you another story. I’m stealing this story from someone else, as all great story-tellers do:

“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

Jesus, the King, said this of himself and he wasn’t talking about sheep.

In this video, the little girl and her dad gave what they had to others. They cared for others; even those who steal. And watching this video illuminated Jesus’ words so much to me! The little boy that they helped ended up being the Doctor who could save life. The boy is like the King in the story, as told by Jesus’ own words.

This video would be good if it was illuminating Jesus’ words. But it is great because it illuminates Jesus’ work.

No metaphor of Jesus’ work is perfect – but this video is close! Like the video, we have a [financial/spiritual] debt that has to be paid. Like the video, we do not have enough funds to pay for this debt. Like the video, without the debt paid death is imminent. That’s why this video is so powerful; this video pulls on so many threads of the greatest story in the world.

Just like the video, it is heartbreaking facing the amount of debt that has to be paid. Like the video, we can try to do extravagant actions to gain enough funds, or enough moral righteousness. And like the video, we are shocked when we discover our debt can be paid.

And like the video, a conditional payment had to be met. But unlike the video, in the story of Jesus, no payment is required by us.  Jesus said:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus did not die on the cross for those who have lived perfect lives of giving to others in need. I honestly do not give much to the poor. Do you? Sure here and there I give some money, but I really don’t think I give enough. The good news is that Jesus doesn’t heal the perfect, he heals the sick.

I am so glad that Jesus did this for me. Watching this video illuminated what Jesus did for me. That’s why Jesus had to die. He died to cancel the debt and he rose to give us eternal life. This video is all about that. I love it! I love how Jesus is so generous with his grace and I’m so glad I can receive it as a free gift. Now out of this, of course, is my reaction that I ought to do that more. And I plan to. It’s funny how this video kind of shows this necessary relationship too. When you receive a gift so great, the necessary future moral decision to make is to give to others. This is such a good video. It pulls on so many threads of the fabric of the story of God.

What do you think?

This is a phote

It doesn’t matter that you believe in tolerance

I get it, you like tolerance.

You like the whole “let’s be friends no matter who you are” perspective. You may call it acceptance, or perhaps open-minded. Perhaps you think it’s a perspective without a name; something personal to you that can’t be described in one word. You just want people loved and accepted without the unnecessary arguments about religion. Aren’t all religions pretty much the same anyways?

You say to yourself that people who believe there is only one way to heaven, to God, or to happiness are limited in their perspective.  You desire that all people have an open mind.

I get you. I get what you’re saying.

Some people would be so arrogant as to put your views in a box. They might call it relativism or post-modernism. And that’s not fair. How can they use inadequate human language based on their own subjective views to delegate to you a role which they’ve predetermined you must fulfil. That’s not a role for you. You don’t have a name for your beliefs. Who gave them the right to judge?

And all this doesn’t matter to me.

What matters to me is that you believe in Jesus. It’s important that you call Jesus, from the inside of your heart of hearts, your Saviour and your Lord. I get that there’s a bunch of baggage tied to Christianity. I get that religion is obstructive, intolerant, and narrow. I generally agree with you on many of these issues. But they’re secondary issues. They don’t matter.

When Jesus is your Lord, it means that his life is primary over your iPhone, your school, and even your life. His life > your life. To say Jesus is your Lord is to say that you will try to be like him because he is the ultimate authority figure and leader of your life. Above parents even, above your perspective… even above the government. That’s letting God be God.

Jesus as saviour is Jesus as rescuer. He is the one who is the protagonist in the superman movie. And here’s the crazy part, you must accept that in the film of your life you are the one needing saving. It’s the imperfections you can’t get past; the desire for human approval, the trap of immediate gratification. That’s you. That’s me. That’s everyone. You’re stuck in the muck we all stumbled in and Jesus makes you unstuck. I want you to believe that.

We could go on and on arguing philosophical terms that we both don’t really understand, or we could just believe that Jesus is Lord and Saviour.

Belief is a funny thing. It’s not something you need to do as a modernist, a post-modernist, or a pre-Socratic. It’s something that’s existed through every wave of human philosophy.

Perhaps our beliefs do influence our philosophical views. But that’s mote. It’s secondary to Jesus. Everything is secondary to Jesus. Jesus transcends the temporary beliefs with eternal treasure… I’m just trying to share the wealth. Call on Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Live your life in light of that. That’s all I’m asking.

If you say yes. Then start living. If you say no, not now, or maybe later… can I ask you a simply question? Do you know why you’ve made that decision? Think about it. I think it’s a fair question to think about. I wouldn’t mind discussing it with you either. I promise the conversation won’t turn into a heated argument. You see I try to live me life with this perspective: Jesus is primary, everything else is secondary.

What do you say?