Saturday, February 18, 2012

Remembering My Momma.... 2 years later....

It was the most difficult day of my life, February 18, 2010. My momma went home to be with the Lord after what seemed like a very brief struggle with cancer. Growing up, I always thought that she would be around "forever". I always thought that I would finish college and Lord willing, get married and have kids, and then at a ripe old age, she would leave this world. Well, the Lord had different plans and called her home a little earlier than I had hoped.

I have always thought that since she passed away what a scene is must be in heaven. Anyone who knew anything about my momma knew that she loved music and was always singing. She is the whole reason I became interesting in singing, playing, and writing music myself. I like to think she made it up to heaven and just started singing praises to God so much that God had to say, "Take a breather honey; it's not like you are going anywhere." (That part is a joke.)

Well, after the dust settled and reality began to sink in, we had the daunting task of packing up the house and sorting through everything. One day, I was packing all of my stuff to move to my new home at MSU as well as trying to see if there was anything else that I could use. Off to the side was a cardboard box with a lot of music in it. It was about to get thrown away. Neither my sister or I thought much about it at first. Knowing that my mom was a music teacher, it made sense that there would be a lot of sheet music for school plays, church programs, and other events all over the place. Something didn't seem right throwing it away at that moment, so I took the box, placed it in my car, and headed back for MSU later that day. I got back, unloaded everything, and began to relax. I placed the box of music in my room. For over a year and a half, I kept telling myself that I should go through that box just to see what was in there. But my more manly tendencies to neglect cleaning and organizing emerged, and it never happened.

One day, I happened to get into one of my OCD cleaning fits (a quite rare occasion) and decided I would go through that music. Well I started looking through it. Nothing really jumped out at me at first. On top were school plays and random sheet music. Nothing that exciting. Mixed in everywhere were old lesson books of my mom's that were from when she was learning to play piano. So it got a little exciting. Well as I kept going through the rather large box of music I stumbled across something that would make my day.

My momma loved music. Everyone knew that. But my momma also wrote music and not just shortly before her death. To this day I can still remember being the white-haired little boy sitting on stage with my little sister and mother at Elliot Baptist Church and being "forced" to sing one of the songs she wrote with her. Of course I didn't understand anything that was going on; just that I really did not have a say in whether or not I did it.

The other thing everyone knows about my mom is, to use a good ole southern expression, bless her soul she had some of the messiest and most disorganized writing ever contrived upon this planet. Notes would be scribbled sideways and upside down and on the front and on the back of every piece of paper, phone book, or envelope she could find. And often it was a rarity not to find some person's name and phone number scribbled in one of the corners. Back to the story. What I saw before me was definitely something I did not expect to find: handwritten originals and copies of, to my knowledge, three songs she wrote around the late 1980's. The date on a "final" copy of one of them was 2-2-89. Yours truly was about a year and a half old at the time which makes this next part very special. I started to read the songs. Going through the box of music was already not an easy task, but this definitely didn't help emotions. I kept reading. And then something caught my eye that I honestly was not expecting, a song that I had no clue had been written. So I started to read that song. I made it through the first page and then this jumped out at me:

Yours truly was mentioned in a song. I don't know how it happened. Maybe I was just laying on the couch beside my mom when she was writing, and that's how she came to write it. Maybe I was running around the house causing mayhem (that's probably what my sister would say). I don't know. But this definitely made my day. Boy was I glad this box did not get thrown away.

So on this two year anniversary of my momma's passing, I leave you with the words she wrote so long ago:
"God's love is around the world you live in; All around all that you see; All around everybody and it covers you and me; So take the gift that He offers; It's forever and it's free; Spread His love to everybody, all around"

Monday, February 13, 2012

Food for Thought: An Interview with an Egyptian Christian on U.S. Foreign Policy (Part 1)

So everything is gearing up for the presidential election next fall here in the US. Republican candidates are trying to distance themselves from President Obama while trying to bash each other simultaneously. I kept up with most of the debates held between the Republican candidates over the past few months and got to thinking about something really interesting. The candidates go back and forth about what the US foreign policy should be. But what do people think of the US foreign policy? In particular, what do Middle Easterners think of US foreign policy? Another question I had been thinking about is if you are a Christian and subscribe to the commonly held belief of just war theory, how does the current US foreign policy compare? Can a Christian (read conservative Republican if you are from the southern US) blindly support every US military engagement? I have talked to friends from all over and had an idea of what the typical Middle Easterner thought, but one night while I was on vacation in Malaysia, I had an idea. So I interviewed one of my friends in Malaysia, who is a Egyptian college student studying over there. Here is the text of the interview from the first three questions. One thing to keep in mind as you read. I did not fact check every single thing in this. I was obviously not born during the time a lot of it happened. But I hope that everyone sees that regardless of factual accuracy, if people really do think like this (which is what is important), how can the US improve? More importantly, how can we as American Christians show the God of the Bible effectively to people we come across given certain predispositions towards Americans?

Question 1: To provide some context when we get to foreign policy, briefly tell me about the background you grew up in.

“I’m an Egyptian. I was born in Egypt and brought up in Egypt. And then I moved to Saudi Arabia because my father found a better opportunity there for work and here I am studying in Malaysia. I believe in Christ. I’m a Christian. I was born in a Christian family. Any my family always have had an interest in news. That’s why I watch a lot of news.”

Question 2: Excluding foreign policy, generally, what do people in the Middle East think of America?

“What people there in the Middle East think about the US. In fact all of them, most of them look up to the US. The US has given the world a model of progress, a model of good ideals, it has always inspired the world and everybody looks up at that. Apart from foreign policy and all that, people think about American people as people who have ideals, they have principals, they’re hard working. They’re just great. But another thing on the side, they don’t really think they are religious at all. They believe that the US is totally irreligious where atheism culture is prominent. Of course you can guess from where they got such an impression, from of course Hollywood and all these movies. And then they never know that actually quite a number of Americans are very committed and conservatives. I was really surprised to meet a lot of Americans who are so committed to Christ. They just gave their lives to Christ. I was really astonished by that. And then apart from that, apart from foreign policy people think they are creative and great."

Question 3: What do people think about American foreign policy, especially in the Middle East?

"Concerning American foreign policy in the Middle East, I think it’s terrible the way that the American leadership has dealt with was bad, unfriendly, and it brought, I think a lot of problems to the Middle East and of course to the US itself. Let me give you an example on that. The problem with the American leadership, it didn’t update its mentality after the fall of the Soviet Union. In that sense, it has divided the world. It has always divided the world into two parts: Pro-American and Anti-American. Let’s say for example, during the 1979, the Soviet Union decided to invade Afghanistan. Of course the US could not allow Afghanistan to turn into a communist state and that’s why they started to fund all these mujahedeen. And in 9/11 there was mujahedeen who were viewed as freedom fighters. In just one night they turned into terrorists, but unfortunately Americans are fooled by American propaganda that Osama bin Laden is made in the USA. He is someone who was made; he was given power by the USA itself. And my evidence on that again is the mujahedeen part and the freedom fighters who were praised, funded by the US itself as part of the Reagan doctrine. That is, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Reagan doctrine was applied to Afghanistan and I think during the invasion of Panama and that’s exactly the problem with the American leadership. It never tries to have friends. It never tries to view itself as someone; it shows itself as a hypocrite all the time. I really don’t know why. Another part I would like to talk about is now we are living, I have lived the Arab Spring. Despite the fact I am studying in Malaysia, I have lived the Arab Spring, I have lived the revolution in my country and the American attitude toward this is they were really diplomatic. They really did not take a firm stance against Mubarak. Nobody can argue with me that the US has always supported dictators, has always supported dictators. Mubarak killed many Egyptians for no reason. Mubarak and his regime violated many articles of human rights and yet the US used to fund him, used to give him money, and it supported him all over the world. As if he is so unlike Gaddafi. But keep in mind that he was doing exactly the same thing that Gadhafi. The only difference was he was acting for US interests. As far as I think that’s really hypocritical of the US government. Saddam Hussein, again made in the US. He cooperated with the US against Iran and in the end, when he decided to try to invade Kuwait which of course is an American territory, they decided to go against him. That’s terribly hypocritical. He has always been a dictator ever sense he came to power in 1979. He has always been a dictator. Third part I would like to talk about is the Israeli-Palestinian issue. You can never, you can never have a good ray to consider America’s image as long as this problem is there. They feel like a part of their land is being ripped off. What do you think? Fourth part is, American bases are all over the world. They’re in Japan, Germany, Qatar, they were in Saudi Arabia but they moved, Iraq, Afghanistan, everywhere. I would like to know your feeling if you were an American. If my country for example tried to establish a base in the US, I would love to know how you were going to react to this. Of course you won’t just accept such an idea. I don’t think so. So back to the Arab Israeli conflict here. The thing is Americans think that they should stand for Israel and they don’t know why. I am going to ask every American why the US is supporting Israel. I’m not saying that we should kill all Jews. No, No, No. I’m not that person. Never. None of the Arabs are like this. None of the Middle Easterners are like this. We are not people who like want to kill as it’s emphasized in the American propaganda. No that’s not true. It’s just that we want our piece of land back and that’s it. That’s exactly what we want. Why I say that this is true is that when Egypt had a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 and I believe that this was signed in the US, I think during the time of Carter, it’s preserved till now. All the establishments of Egypt try and they try really hard to keep that treaty. And they are working on it and they are making it and they can. It’s not like there can’t be peace. No that’s not true. As long as you keep upon this attitude that is being stubborn about it, of course they are going to retaliate. What do you expect? So concerning also the bases that the US has all over the world. This is I think scratching the sovereignty of the states for example Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf. Of course they won’t be happy about it. They will never be happy about it. They’re being funded by peoples’ money. That’s another thing. About the Iraq War, I challenge any American to tell me what is the reason behind the Iraq War. Just give me one reason. Weapons of Mass Destruction, which was presented by the Secretary of State Colin Powell. He gave so called irrefutable evidence that was not true. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and there was no reason for the invasion of Iraq. President Obama himself gave some sort of a confession that the Iraq War had no reason by saying, “but now Iraq is better off.” As if this is a better compromise of the death of thousands and thousands of Iraqis. And now the state of Iraq is like nothing, I mean Iraq is not now way better off. That’s not true. There’s no real democracy there. People do not understand anything. Infrastructure is destroyed. Corruption is really high. And people who are supported by Iran, for example Al-Maliki, is still there in power. If you observe Iraqi politics you’re going to find many funny things such as like liberal people and secular people such as Ayad Allawi. He is not being elected. He can’t come to power just because of political corruption as far as I think. And the US is unable to do; I know don’t know if it’s unable to do anything, or that’s exactly what it wants to do. I really don’t know. But I feel like this war was not justified and I believe that a lot of Americans did not feel that it was justified, and I can think like that because most Americans want their troops to come home again."

Well, that is it for today. Stay tuned for answers to more questions including how the US could improve relations, a nuclear Iran, and why terrorists want to attack the US.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Everything You Cared and Didn't Care to Think About at 10:30 in the Morning

If you are a Mississippian, you are fully aware that social media, tv, and newspapers are filled with people offering their opinions about Amendment 26. Quite frankly, I am ready for next Tuesday to be over so all this talk will disappear. Up until this time, I have resisted my natural urges to be confrontational and debate this issue. But not hearing satisfactory answers from either side has led me to make my views known.

So what is Amendment 26 and what is it not. I think I am correct in saying this, but on the ballot on this coming Tuesday, here is what you will see under Statewide Initiative No. 26:

"Should the term 'person' be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof?"

Have you guys heard that? I have not. All I hear is people rambling (no pun intended) on about the consequences about saying yes/no to that statement. This is all 26 is. The amendment itself is pretty plain and easy to understand. Now what everyone asking is what is the consequences if this is passed.

And guess what? I have the answer for you, and it should be common sense. NO ONE KNOWS! Now you can sleep easy at night feeling satisfied that you have the answer to the question. So I am done. Goodnight. God Bless 'Merica.

So if you are like me and that does not exactly satisfy you as an answer, hopefully I can convince you of it.

I may be young, but as a student of politics and news, I have seen several trends. First off, any time a law is getting passed, you have all these outside groups lobbying their position, good or bad. Both make claims to the effect of: "If this law passes, this will happen... "If this law does not pass, this will happen..." Now take 26, people say, if 26 passes, birth control will be banned and doctors will be prosecuted for not saving the life of the mother among tons of other claims. As with most laws, fear mongering from either side can happen. But if you keep up with the news like I do, what happens when a controversial law passes? As soon as it passes or before it takes effect, lawsuits rain down from the sky like manna from heaven. President Obama's health care law has multiple lawsuits pending and it has not even taken effect yet. Arizona and Alabama's immigration laws have lawsuits keeping them from taking effect until all the issues have been deliberated. The point is, if Amendment 26 passes, it will not reach the stage for it to take effect and be enforced because outside groups like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU will file lawsuits to prevent it from taking effect.

But let us suppose that it passes and no lawsuit is filed or the lawsuits are dismissed. The law takes effect. It is still up to the state to decide how to enforce that law. For instance, on the Mississippi law books there are these laws: 1. A man may not seduce a woman by lying, and claiming he will marry her. 2. One may be fined $100 for using "profane language" in public places. 3. Cattle rustling is punishable by hanging. 4. Adultery or Fornication results in a fine of $500 and/or 6 months in prison. And the list goes on and on and on. When was the last time that you know someone that was fined $100 for cursing in a restaurant or grocery store. To my knowledge, I have not seen this happen. Why? Because the state decides how to enforce the law. While the law is on the book, it is up to the state to decide how to enforce it. The same will happen here. The state will choose what to do about doctors who perform abortions, etc... But let us also suppose that the state decides that if a doctor saves a mother's life by abortion, he will be prosecuted for murder. The whole lawsuit cycle will ensue again. Most likely, public outrage will be extremely high. And if I had to make a guess, the doctor would be let off and the law would be adjusted to grant an exception.

So why does everyone worry about the negative consequences of a law before it passes when history teaches us that with a controversial issue, the courts will have their hands full deciding what to do about the law before it can even take effect?

Next, I appeal to Christian ideals. If you are a Christian, you should be pro-life. The sanctity of life is clear from the Bible. But alas, we will not get into this topic. Let us just assume for the moment that if you are Christian, you are pro-life. First, if you are pro-choice, then there is no reason for you to vote "yes" on the amendment unless you just want to (which is incidentally fine by me). But if you are a Christian (pro-life), I personally believe there is only one choice. Your duty is to vote a resounding "YES" on Amendment 26. Here is why I believe that. Does all this worrying about unintended consequences negate the fact that abortion is murder? NO. If you believe abortion is murder, your Christian duty is to stand up against this injustice the same way you get upset at people getting killed in Sudan, Libya, and Syria and seeing starving children around the world. These issues spark something in you that says, "This is not right. Maybe I can help in some small way." Why does abortion not do the same thing? My own personal believe is that this happens because abortion is in my eyes, legalized murder where other crimes committed or injustices worldwide do not have US governmental backing (mostly anyways).

Now let us suppose that there are unintended consequences of this law (No BC, doctors prosecuted, etc...). By saying, "I will not support this law because of (insert consequence here)," in my opinion, you are in effect saying, human life is not priceless. You are saying, "I am pro-life, but as long (insert here)." To me, this is an absolute travesty that we would defiantly declare to be pro-life but place essentially a dollar amount on the value of a life. Even if BC is banned, doctors are prosecuted, and mothers are prosecuted, human life is still priceless. As a consequence, abortion should be banned regardless of the unintended consequences that happen because of a law. 26 sets us on the path to hopefully accomplish that.

Finally, I appeal to the masses who complain about the law being "poorly written or "not clear." This may surprise you. The law is excellently written in my opinion. Why? Because abortion is already banned under MS law! It is illegal to have an abortion in MS unless you have the typical exceptions that follow such as rape, incest, saving the life of the mother. If 26 said, "Should abortion be illegal (maybe with exceptions)?" what would that accomplish if it passed? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Even though abortion is mostly illegal in MS, the state cannot enforce the law because of Roe v. Wade. So what other options are there? A state can come out and say abortion is illegal in said state, but it does nothing because of US Supreme Court ruling. But what if instead of defining a law outlawing abortion, a law defines what a person is? This is I believe, the best opportunity we have in our lifetime to get the US Supreme Court to weigh in on the Roe v. Wade debate again. We have tried the abortion is illegal route, and we have not gotten anywhere. It is time to move on to another route. Keep in mind that if it passes, lawsuits galore will ensue, which will hopefully work its way up to the top. If the law does not pass, we are back to square zero. Mississippians, keep in mind that the passing of this law will have practically no effect for years to come.

If you did not gather, I hold very strong believes about this issue. I am very passionate about it. It is my strong desire and prayer that this law passes to hopefully and eventually get rid of the abomination known as abortion. But if it does not pass, it will at least give me another concrete example in explaining to internationals why America is not a Christian nation. If this law does not pass in Mississippi, in the heart of the Bible belt, where studies show us to be the most religious state in the nation(which means mostly Christian in our case), this law will have absolutely no chance of passing anywhere else and the fight to end abortion will be set back for years to come in my opinion.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Look at Love

So this post is way over due by a couple of months but I thought I would give a teaser about what I have been learning recently from a study I am doing on love.

Love. You hear the word everywhere. "I love you." "I love frisbee." In church circles you hear people say, "I love God," or "I love Jesus." Or you hear a command such as in Mark 12:30, "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." Whichever it is, you do not associate loving someone with loving a burger. The two carry distinct meaning. So how do you tell the difference. Common sense should at least tell you that hamburgers, frisbee, and Jesus are not equal when it comes to love. But what is the difference between say loving Jesus and loving your kids? So the question becomes, "what is love?" And before you think it, no, the answer is not "baby don't hurt me." So how is love defined by the world versus the Bible. Do you really know what love is? Is it even possible for you to fathom what love is? How do you know that a "feeling" is love or just indigestion? And once you know what love is (and what it's not), how do you love others? And what about "me" in all of this? Is there a "me"?

So these are some of the questions I am working on getting an answer on so stay tuned. And in the mean time, if you do tell someone you love them, ask yourself this question. Are they a hamburger?

Friday, April 22, 2011

A look at Hosea

Earlier this week I finished reading through the book of Hosea. Reflecting on the book and this Easter season, it is very interesting how well this short Old Testament book fits with the Easter message.

So for those of you not the most familiar with this book, here is a quick summary:

The book takes place around 750 - 700 BC and was written by a guy named Hosea (name means "salvation"). So basically God tells Hosea to take a "wife of harlotry" (woman that would become one) and that will symbolize the relationship of God with the unfaithful people of Israel. The book is 14 chapters long and most of that is spent saying one thing: Israel has screwed up again. They have given themselves to idolatry. Judgement is coming. But the fascinating fact is that God will remain faithful.

Anyone who knows anything about Israel most likely knows that they were not always obedient. As a result they were led into captivity multiple times, punished during the exodus from Egypt, etc...Yet one thing always remained. God would redeem his people and bring them back from their disobedience. So we get to Hosea and what do you know. The children of Israel, God's chosen people to reveal His Name to the nation, has screwed up again. So what was God's reaction?

He still loved them. Various references are scattered throughout this book about God still loving them but Chapter 11 has to be the most compelling. So knowing they had been disobedient, check this out.

Chapter 11:1-4, 7-11
1. "When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.
2. As they called them, So they went from them; They sacrificed to the Baals, And burned incense to carved images.
3. "I taught Ephraim to walk, Taking them by their arms; But they did not know that I healed them.
4. I drew them with gentle cords, With bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.
7. My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, None at all exalt Him.
8."How can I give you up, Ephraim? how can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred.
9. I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God and not man, The Holy one in your midst; And I will not come with terror.
10. "They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When He roars, Then His sons shall come trembling from the west;
11. They shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt, Like a dove from the land of Assyria. And I will let them dwell in their houses," Says the Lords.

Ok so a little sidebar for a few notes: Israel was also called Ephraim after the largest tribe. Admah and Zeboiim were two cities destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah (see Deuteronomy 29:23)

So in this passage, we see the faithfulness of God, faithlessness of Israel, judgement of Israel as a result, and the mercy of God. And then it struck me.

Why would God put up with these people? They constantly screw up. There is always a constant back and forth. They can't ever seem to get their act together. And when they do, they only repeat the cycle. From a human's perspective, there is no reason whatsoever why anyone should put up with a people like that. They were far too messed up for God to accept them.

And then I thought about something. I am the same way. Everyone is the same way. We are all pretty much screwed up people. We choose to disobey God's commands constantly (whether we know that we do it or not). And there is no reason why God should love us. Yet he does. Even the worst of sinners. Even the person who thinks they are too far lost for God to do anything. God loves them too. That is the beauty about redemption. Wretched sinner though I am, God loves me. We are all like Israel. We have each turned to our wicked ways. And eventually we can be deceived into believing we are too far off for help. But the Bible is full of examples of people who were messed up and were offered forgiveness. Experience today shows us people who were really messed up and were offered forgiveness. So why not me, why not you? Listen to this song and tell me it is not true.

Shane and Shane - Embracing Accusation

As we experience Easter tomorrow, let us always keep in mind that while the devil will say to us that we cannot be redeemed and we begin to believe we cannot be saved, the message of the Bible is clear: Jesus saves!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another look at Philippians 3

Isn't it interesting how life is just not as "easy" as you think it should be. Isn't it interesting how one moment everything can be going great and the next it seems like everything is falling apart around you. Why is that?

For me, the pieces are finally getting put back together after being in the valley for almost 5 months. What caused it? Well you could say it was a girl, but in the end that is not the real reason. The root cause was my pride and not trusting God completely. And the past 5 months were awful because of it. Then I read Philippians 3 about two months ago. Why that passage? I have no clue. I had gone from being on top of the hill and learning so much to reading my Bible sparingly so this wasn't exactly something I planned on doing. So here is another look at Philippians 3 and my insights into it.

Before I start here is a note. Regardless of if you are a Christian or not, I encourage you to read this passage and my insights. But if you are a Christian I especially want you to read it for reasons that will follow.

Philippians 3
1.Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.
2.Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!
3.For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,
4.though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:
5.circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;
6.concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
7. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
8. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for who I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
9. and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Jesus Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
10. that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
11. if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
13. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
15. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.
16. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.
17. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
18. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19. whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame -- who set their mind on earthly things.
20. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
21. who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Ok. So you have probably read or heard people talk about that passage a bazillion times. So now go back and read it again paying more attention. It is very easy to speed through familiar passages of Scripture as I am very guilty of doing at times.

So there are a lot of different things I could talk about with this passage, but I have five things that have really stood out for me.

Insight #1: Our natural tendency is to think we can make it on our own.

I am sure I did not even have to say that. Most people should easily recognize that fact. Why else would Paul say "have no confidence in the flesh" in verse 3? We all have had the feeling at some point that we could be good enough to earn God's favor. As Christians, how many times have we thought, "I need to get my life together," when in reality we cannot even begin to get our lives together. The Scriptures are replete with verses and examples of this fact. And if you have said that and done it before, what happens. You start doing stuff and getting back on the right track, and eventually you topple over again. Then repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

Insight #2: My life <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Paul's life

And just when you thought, I can do it on my own even despite your previous failures. How does your life contextually compare with Paul's? Quite simply. Paul was a man-beast. Chuck Norris himself could not stand up to Paul. It's a fact. Sorry Chuck Norris fans. Knowing all that is known about Paul's life, would you dare to say that you would be "on par" with Paul? My guess is most people, including myself, would say the opposite. Now is Paul some sort of super human? No. But you have to admit, when you look at this guy's "qualifications," it has to get you thinking.

Insight #3: How in the world could Paul say what he did after vs.4-6?

He said what?! Read verses 7-14 again. Think about this with me as you reflect on your life. If you were in the same "shape" Paul was as he described in vs. 4-6, would you even think like this? If everything seemed to be going your way and life could not get any better, would you still approach God with the humility of Paul or with your own pride? Paul had no reason to say what he did here if he could "work" his way to salvation. He clearly was there. Yet he considered all things "rubbish" and strove forward.

Insight #4: No 5-step plan or miracle cure for life

Who woulda thunk it? Life is not easy. And guess what? There is no easy way to make your life great. If you could choose between losing weight by sitting around and hanging out with your friends or going to the gym multiple hours a week, which would you choose? Most people, unless you are one of "them," would choose the first option. Life is the same way. It is not easy. Good things happen. Bad things happen. Confusing things happen. That is why I believe Paul said what he did in vs. 12-14. He did not say press forward and stop. Paul understood that you have to continually be moving forward.

Insight #5: So what is the goal?

So human nature shows us that we strive to earn salvation. Paul led a beastly life but felt he could not earn salvation. The Scriptures say there is no way we can earn salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). And life is not easy and there is no way to make it easy. Bad and confusing things happen. So what now? This is the meat of what I have learned recently. How do you go from day to day knowing all this stuff? It is actually quite simple (not always easy, but simple nonetheless). You keep in mind what Paul said in vs. 20-21. You go from day to day knowing that there are greater things to come. What does that translate into practically? Your career, plans, and dreams are not the most important thing in life. When you understand this fact, you will begin to see that life is not about you, but about Him and you will be amazed at how the worries of this world just seem to fade away.

So now you have heard the rest of the story. Stay tuned for my next post on my latest musings through the minor prophets.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Packing Up My Coffin

So...First thing you are probably wondering is what in the world does the title mean. I am very glad you asked. A couple a months ago, I started thinking about this group of people I had heard about called the Moravians. This group of people became famous for their work in Christian missions overseas. They are most often cited in the context of missions as the ones who would pack their belongings in a coffin symbolizing that they were committing to staying on the field and realizing that they would probably die there. That is where the title of this post came from. Now the fun part.

This whole movement was started by a guy named Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf in the 1720s I believe. Zinzendorf is known for starting a 24/7 prayer meeting that lasted continuously for over 100 years! Two men were sent out as part of this movement, John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman. These guys were ordinary men with families living in Copenhagen who felt God calling them to be missionaries in the West Indies in 1732. So committed were they to their goal of reaching the slaves there, that they sold themselves into slavery in order to reach the slaves. Their mission statement was "Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him." These guys were willing to give everything to follow Jesus and his call on their lives by recognizing all that He had already done for them. Pulling away from the docks, the men cried out, "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering," which became the cry of the Moravians that would later come.

So in thinking about the life these men led, I wrote a song named "Packing Up My Coffin" in tribute to the work they and the ones that followed did. As a challenge, everyone who is a Christian is called to be a missionary. That could be where you are now or somewhere else. I leave you with this quote from singer Keith Green's song Jesus Commands Us to Go, "Jesus commands us to go, It should be the exception if we stay."

So here are the lyrics to my song. I hope you enjoy.

Packing Up My Coffin

Our Lamb has conquered
Let us follow Him
Into the world to spread His name
Our Lamb has conquered
and we have been saved
Why should we not follow Him?

I'll give You everything
I'll go where You say go
I'll serve you forever more
I'll lay down all my pride
And have the faith of a child
A child forever yours

Our Lamb has conquered
Let us follow Him
Regardless of where we are told
Our Lamb is for us
Who could be against us?
Our Lamb has conquered
Why should we fear?

I'll give You everything
I'll go where You say go
I'll serve you forever more
I'll lay down all my pride
And have the faith of a child
A child forever yours

May the Lamb that was slain
Receive the reward of His suffering
May the Lamb that was slain
Receive the reward of His suffering

I'll give You everything
I'll go where You say go
I'll serve you forever more
I'll lay down all my pride
And have the faith of a child
A child forever yours

May the Lamb that was slain
Receive the reward of His suffering
May the Lamb that was slain
Receive the reward of His suffering

So I'll pack up my coffin and go.