Friday, September 28, 2012

What Are Works AKA The Beatitudes

Last week we looked at James 2:26 where James says, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead." This is in direct conflict with Paul, who in Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it it the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." We decided that both of these scriptures were valid because works are not the CAUSE of salvation, but the EVIDENCE of salvation. With that in mind, we ended by asking, "What are works?"

For starters, let's drop the word works and replace it with evidence of salvation. The evidence of salvation can be summarized by Jesus in Matthew 5:3-12:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely
say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad,
because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they 
persecuted the prophets who were before you.

So what do all of those verses mean? In verse 3 Jesus says blessed are the poor in spirit. This is simply a way to say humble. Humility is realizing that everything you have and everything you are is no more than gifts from God. We have been blessed by Grace through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We should be open to doing the will of God and not our own will. Maybe Obama was on to something when he said, "If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own." At least, that is what Jesus is saying in verse 3. Those who realize that their life is no more than a gift from God will be given the kingdom of heaven. 

In verse 4, those who mourn refers to those who appreciate the gift of life and the sacrifice Christ made on their behalf and due to that abhor the sin they see in themselves and in the world around them. It says that those who mourn will be comforted, and that is why God has sent the Holy Spirit, to help console us and guide is. 

In verse 5, the meek are those of us who submit our will to God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. It is those of us who are kind and show love to thosewe encounter, even in the face of adversity. Those who hunger in verse 6 are those who truly try to live our lives as Christ did. We hunger for the Spirit, and if we ask we shall be filled with the Spirit. 

In verse 7 Jesus mentions the merciful, who are those that show others compassion, love and forgiveness. Those who show mercy to others will be shown mercy by God. IF we forgive others of their trespasses as mentioned in the Lord's Prayer, then our sins too shall be forgiven. The pure of heart mentioned in verse 8 are those who act purely for the benefit of those around them with no selfish intent. Being altruistic is what we should be striving for. 

Verse 9 says blessed are the peacemakers, which are those of us who live our lives at peace with others. More than that, it is those of us who also try to create peace, friendship and goodwill  in the lives of others as well. 

In verses 10-12, Jesus looks at those who are persecuted because of their righteousness. This is not only those who are physically attacked by others because of their faith. It is also those who are ostracized by those around them because they are different. It is the kid who is made fun of for not drinking, for not joining in the ridiculing of another student or for being a virgin. It is the employee who is not invited into the conversation because they refuse to gossip about other coworkers or is not invited out after work because they don't drink, smoke and/or laugh at the raunchy jokes. 

Too many Christians try to blend in and fly under the radar. We read the same dirty books and watch the same movies. We see nothing wrong with reading 50 Shades of Grey or watching soft core pornography. We listen to the same music as those around us. These are movies, television shows and music that glorifies: pre-marital sex, drugs, drinking, partying, anger, gossip, adultery, hate, hustling and committing crimes. We take in the same garbage that those around us take in. Remember, garbage in garbage out. If we feed on sin through our senses, then sin is sure to come out in our speech and actions!

Jesus says in John 15 that they will hate us as they hated him, yet all we do is try not to offend those around us by showing we are different.  Jesus has let us know that if we live our lives timid in faith, that our faith is dead. If we are embarrassed of Him, He will be embarrassed by us. If we try to blend in with the rest of the world, then we will gain the same gift as the rest of the world. Don't kid yourself, Matthew 7:14 says that "Narrow is the path" to will lead us to salvation. If we continue to live our lives as the world around us, we are sure to gain the same eternity that they will. 

I beg you, choose life! This is done by applying the beatitudes in our lives. This can be a difficult and seemingly impossible task. After all, Satan attacks us at every corner. In order to live our lives well and try to live the beatitudes, we need to equip ourselves to be successful. This can be done by donning the armor of God, which we will talk about next week. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From Shack to Temple Weight Loss Wednesday Reasons for Change

So I am right back up to almost 250 pounds. I just weighed 248.2 pounds. I have not only gained weight since we had the baby, I now weigh more than I did when I first started losing weight. This time, the stakes are a little different. I know that I need to curb my addiction to eating and form better eating habits, but now I have more reasons. Let's get into those reasons:
  1. I have a new born daughter
  2. My wife has lost 40 pounds since she had our daughter 6 weeks ago
  3. My body is supposed to be a temple and looks more like a shack
  4. I am 40 years old
I have a new born daughter. I have one more person to keep up with, not just my son. She will not graduate until I am 58 and will need me to play games with her, teach her how to play sports and practice with her. My son needs these things too. They also need to learn healthy eating habits, which I do not currently have. It is hard to teach something that you don't know and practice in your own life. Since I eat poorly while being obese and 40, we have a problem. Those are not the ingredients I would use if the recipe I am making is to turn into me being able to be physically active with them at least until they graduate. And then there is grand kids, but we won't even talk about them yet.

Then we have my beautiful wife, who now weighs less then she did before we met. This is the sveltest she has been since I have known her. I am the heaviest I have been since she has known me. I don't want to be walking down the street and have people wondering what the hottie is doing with the fattie! I know that is mean, but I know if we continue down the paths we are walking I will be thinking it. I expect that others would, too!

How is it that I have quit smoking cigarettes after 26 years and drugs/alcohol after doing them for 25 years, yet food is kicking my butt. I know I have been eating my whole life, but seriously I need to stop this. I am tired of having something consume my life that is not good for me. I will not be a slave to anything, whether it is drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, shopping, porn, anger  or food. I am done with this. I am controlled by no one and no thing. I pull my strings..............with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, we are told that our bodies are a living sacrifice to God in Romans 12:1. My body is in no way a living sacrifice if I constantly stuff it with food. I eat to eat, I comfort eat to make me feel better. This happens particularly at night. I have found something to eat at night that will be better than what I am eating now. We will talk about that later. All I have to say is that if I can't even control what I am putting into my body how can I possibly control what is coming out of it. Time to shift my focus to Christ and rely on him for the support I am currently getting from food.

In two weeks we will talk about what it is that I am eating, my exercise routines and how it is all going as well as how my relationship with Christ is being built stronger through the process.

Monday, September 24, 2012

BLiR VLog From 09/16/2012-09/22/2012

09/16 Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled

09/17 The Bigger Picture AKA The Sistine Chapel

09/18 People Who Matter Don't Judge, People Who Judge Don't Matter

09/19 The New Golden Rule

09/20 Faith Without Works is Dead

09/21 Will I Die Before They Are Grown

09/22 My Passion May Not Be Your Passion

Friday, September 21, 2012

Faith Without Works is Dead

In James 2:26 James says, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead." A lot of people wonder what does that mean. After all, in Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it it the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." So how can both of these scriptures be valid?

We need to look at what James 2:26 is really saying, so let's break it down. If we are alive physically, there are obvious signs. We have brain activity, our heart beats, we take in oxygen. Those are signs that we are alive. If we are physically dead, then those things and many others do not occur. The same can be said about our faith. If we are alive spiritually, there should be obvious signs also. We will live our lives differently than if we are dead spiritually.

If our faith is alive, then we will see positive manifestations. We will live our lives Christ-like. Will we make mistakes? Of course, it is all about progress not perfection. That said, the way we live our lives will be different than it was before we came to Christ. If we are living our lives exactly the same as before we came to Christ, than we are spiritually dead.

Paul is not saying that works are the CAUSE of salvation, but that works are the EVIDENCE of salvation. When we are saved we live our lives differently. It is not enough to simply go to church, know that Christ was resurrected, and spout scripture. We need a different yard stick than those, and there are some pretty good reasons why.

For starters, sitting in church no more makes you a Christian than me standing in my garage makes me a car. Secondly, Satan and his minions know that Jesus was resurrected. Finally, the Devil has been known to quote scripture. Like I said, those are things that don't signify a Christian. Atheists donate large sums of money to worthy causes, so tithing is out. I have seen secular singers raise their hands in the air while singing, so I feel even worship is out. These are all pieces of the puzzle, but we need to be whole?

That said, what makes us whole? We are told in Matthew 5:14-16, "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." How are we to do this?

WALK THE WALK!!! Don't just pay lip service to Christ. Be a Christian inside and outside of church. Guard your tongue, be mindful of what you watch on television and at movie theaters, be careful of the things you listen to and read. Remember GIGO, garbage in garbage out. If we take in garbage, it is sure to come out of our mouths and in our actions. Don't just talk about it, be about it!

Next week we will look at the beatitudes and how they can guide our lives so that we can learn to walk as Christians in our daily lives. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tactics By Gregory Koukl Chapter 12 Rhodes Scholar

Recently there have been a rash of articles, generally right before Christmas and Easter, that look at the history of Christianity and it's events. They tend to have juicy titles, like "What really happened (fill in the holiday title here)" or "The untold truth about (impending holiday belief here)." The authors take a "what-scholars-say-that-your-pastor-does-not-want-you-to-know approach." Then there are various academics cited who have used the historical scientific approach to debunk all of the false thoughts held by those poor, sad, foolish faith having few.

These stories tend to sell a lot of magazines while discouraging Christians. People look at the big picture and large font on the cover and wonder how did they never hear of these "facts?" Suddenly, some of those who have faith are suddenly unsure of what to believe and those without faith feel justified. After all, how can you argue with the consensus of academic opinion?

Gregory Koukl calls this tactic the "Rhodes Scholar." This is a way of knowing if the academic is a legitimate authority or not. What we do here is look at the difference between educating and informing. You are informed when the article tells you the belief of the author. You are educated by the article when you are let in on why the particular view is held. This is a very important difference. Remember chapter 4, the reason why a belief is held supports the beliefs of the person. If the walls are weak, the whole house collapses.

Most articles inform while not educating. Without the education piece, you can't evaluate the conclusion of the author. How do we know? For starters, no matter the credentials of the author, never be satisfied with the conclusion without first asking for the reasons. NEVER SETTLE FOR OPINIONS!!

Don't be victimized by the "fallacy of expert witness." Appealing to authority is okay, but it has to be done right. Always ask, "Why should I believe this person's opinion?" This question can be answered in two ways.

First, the scholar could know the facts due to a special position. IF he possesses that special info he must be able to use that evidence to convince you. For example, imagine an economics professor discussing the ethics of stem cell research and a cancer researcher who tells us about the dangers of the middle East. They may have degrees and intelligence in their field, but is outside their realm of expertise. Might as well let your mechanic remove your gall bladder and the mailman give you a hair cut and manicure. A Nobel Prize in biology hardly makes one an expert in economics.

Even if the scholar is speaking in their field of expertise, we still have the right to see how they came to their conclusion. Norm Giesler says, "All appeals to authority ultimately rest on the evidence the authority has. The letters after his name don't mean a thing without the evidence to back up his position."

Second, on occasion a scholar can be in a unique position to give judgement. They have the facts but then have the expertise to render judgement. Here we face another issue. Their judgement could be clouded by "philosophical considerations that are not always on the table" for you to see. Sometimes the scholar already knows where he will end up and looks for the "facts" that will allow him to reach his destination. If I am already convinced for or against something it makes it difficult for me to see otherwise. This is particularly a problem seen in science.

Science itself has two completely different definitions. The first is the most know. It is a method that involves observing, experimenting and testing with an open mind to discover facts. If the view doesn't follow this method, it is not science. Second is the philosophy of naturalistic materialism. Phenomena has to be explained within the parameters of energy and matter that natural law is governed by. If it doesn't fit into this second definition it is also, not science.

Using these two methods, we generally reach non-conflicting conclusions. Answers that are consistent with these two definitions are produced through good methods. Sometimes they aren't compatible. Evolution is that way. Koukl says, "When there is a conflict between methodology and materialism, the philosophy always trumps facts. Modern science does not conclude from the evidence that design is not tenable. It assumes it prior to the evidence. Any scientific methodology (first definition of science) that points to creation is summarily disqualified by scientific philosophy (second definition of science) as religion disguised as science."

You don't always have to see forces to acknowledge they are there. If a dead body is discovered, there  is generally an unbiased investigation. That investigation may rule that it wasn't an accidental death but was instead a homicide. If there are multiple bullet holes in the body, the investigator may come to the conclusion that it was indeed foul play. This is the same way that unbiased scientific evidence could find that chance is not how life came about, but instead had "an agent in creation This is not faith vs evidence but evidence vs evidence."

In closing, a scholarly opinion may be a great way to make a point. But this is sometimes not the case. First, we must always insure that the scholar is talking about their field of expertise. Second, remember that WHAT they believe is not what you are after. You want to know WHY they believe that way. You want to hear the scholars reasons, not their opinions.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

BLiR VLog From 09/09/2012-09/15/2012

BLiR Vlog 09/15 Spiritual Attacks and Overcoming Them
BLiR Vlog 09/14 Why God is Never Disappointed in You
BLiR Vlog 09/13 90 Days to Hope or Your Misery Refunded
BLiR Vlog 09/12 The Bully and the Bullied
BLiR Vlog 09/11 I Am Against Decriminalizing Marijuana
BLiR Vlog 09/10 First BLiR Event

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Locker Room

Today I want to introduce you to a sports themed blog. I am big on using analogies because I have found that they are easy to understand. It has also been my experience that most people I talk to understand sports analogies. Due to those reasons, we are going to talk about everybody's lives. This applies to "normies" and addicts. I believe that we all have basic needs in order to live our lives well.

"What do we need?"

Glad you asked! First we need to realize that our lives are very much like a game. This game is serious. In Monopoly, when you land on Go to Jail! you do not pass go, you do not collect $200 and you go directly to jail. That is only a game though, you are not really in jail. In this game, when you go to jail, you sit in jail. You are in a 5 foot by 9 foot cell and you talk to people through Plexiglas windows. This game is real, it is for keeps. When we play games and lose, we get to play another game. If we lose this game, the eternal outcome is dire!

Ephesians 6:10-12 of The Message Bible says, "God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels."

So in order to play this game and win, we have to do several things. The first thing we must do is pick a team. In my past I was on Satan's team. I made choices in my addiction and actions in the lifestyle I led that showed whose team I was on. We choose the team, as C.S. Lewis alluded to in this quote, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' 

We need to realize that the game of life we play is for keeps, it's for eternity. If you make the wrong moves in this game and the game ends, you go south. Deep south! I hear that it is really warm there, all of the time! If you make the right moves, you get to go North! I hear that it is amazing there, and I can't wait to go home!

We get to choose whether we are on the Devil's team or God's. I have chosen playing for Christ. Christ can give us the power to do what needs to be done in life. Phillipians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." Once we get on that team, we will have other needs if we are to be successful. 

First and foremost, we need a great group of coaches. These are the people that will direct our steps. They will teach us how to win the game that we are playing. That game is life, and the coaches we use are also known as pastors (lead, associate and youth) as well as mentors. In the world of addiction recovery the mentor is known as a sponsor. This is a very important position to fill. We can only be as good as our coach. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Most of us are babies in our faith, and we need those who are more mature to educate and guide us as we grow in our faith. We may have the heart for faith, but we do not yet have the skills needed. We need to get down the intricacies of trying to live Christ-like. There is a lot to, and it takes more than just a great coach. We also need to learn the plays, and that requires us having a chance to review them not just with our coach, but when we go away from our coaches, also. Where do we get these plays?

As a Christian, my play book is the Bible. I know that there are a lot of good plays in there. It is a diagram for how we are to live our lives. It may have been written by men, but it was inspired by God. 2 Timothy 3:16,17 says, "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." Our coaches teach us how to run the correct plays, but we have to know the play book well to play the game. In order to successfully run the game winning plays we have more needs.

Any great team has more than one good player. A shining example is the perfect game in baseball. This year (2012) we have had three perfect games pitched. That means 27 batters came to bat and none of them got on base in each game. This is a feat that takes a pitcher playing his "A" game. It also is the rest of the team playing great, too. The catcher has to catch every pitch and not let any third strikes get past him. If a called third strike  goes by him, batter gets on base and the perfect game is lost. In one of the games, there were 9 strike outs and in the other there were 14. That means that the ball was hit into play 31 times, and that the defense made no errors. It took the entire team, if your team mates are having problems, so do you. If you are flowing together, than you are doing great.

So, who are your team mates. We need accountability partners in order to win at the game we call life. No matter how good we feel we are doing, we still need the team mates to help us be better. We are born to sin, so that is our nature. By ourselves we are weak, while together we are strong. In Ecclesiastes 4:9,12 the Bible says, "Two are better than one, Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

When it comes to our accountability partners, we have to surround ourselves with other positive, encouraging, Christ-like people. If you look at the greats, they all had team mates that were great also. Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen and Joe Montana had Jerry Rice. Pick your team mates wisely. I think of my accountability partners as friends. They are friends that I have talked to honestly about my struggles. If I miss a recovery meeting, small group or church they call me and let me know that I was missed and ask if I am doing okay. If they see my attitude starting to get negative they will call me out. I have given them permission. After all, "as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17)."

Now you need to get your team together and have practices. Practice is a way we get to know the plays in the play book better and prepare ourselves better for the game. We have our team mates practice with us and this allows for our bond and respect to deepen and grow. For practice, we have small groups. Small groups are great ways for us to build deeper and stronger relationships with others who we have commonalities with. We may use youth groups, apologetics groups, recovery groups, support groups, etc.

Hebrews 10:25 says, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and god deeds, not giving up meeting together, but encouraging one another." We are to be there for each other. We are to build each other up. There is no better place for us to do these than small groups. It also allows us to do things we would not normally do while receiving support from others who we know and hopefully trust. 

Before we start playing the game, and again at half time we get good sound advice from our coach. He talks to us and our team mates, using the play book to get us prepared for the game. This is an important time, but it is what it is. The looker room is where we learn and prepare, but it is not what is important. What is important is how we play in the game. If I have a great play book and a great coach but I do not perform on the field/court I will lose the game. What does this mean and what is our locker room?

Our locker room is church. This means that church is of import, but what we do outside of church is what truly matters. You can attend twice a week, sit in the front row, raise your hands in worship and tithe faithfully. You can say all of the right things and even have the Bible memorized. That is not important. I once heard a pastor say, "Sitting in church no more makes you a Christian than me standing in my garage makes me a car." We need to be Christian outside of church!

What does it mean to be Christian outside of church? It means that we look different from everyone else. When everyone starts cussing or telling offensive jokes, you let them know that you don't appreciate it. If they continue, you walk away. We need to remember what our ministry is. The pastor, his ministry is inside of the church. Where is yours? It could be at the junior high, high school or college you go to. It could be at your job, whether you are a maid, attorney or work in a restaurant.

You could be the best listener and loudest singer in church, but in the end it will all be for naught! The Bible says it best in James 2:26, "Faith without works is dead!" We need to apply what we learn, simply knowing isn't enough! If we are not in the locker room, we do not learn what we need in order to defeat Satan and stay steadfast and true in this sinful world.

Now we are ready to play the game. We have chosen a team, listened to our coach, learned the play book, practiced with our team mates and gotten pumped up for the game. We know what we need to do and how to do it. We get out there and begin playing. At first we are doing great, but we begin to wear down and the other team begins to take a lead. We are making mistakes that could cost us the game. We call a quick time out, because our team needs to get pumped back up. We need to talk our strategy over, so we get into the huddle.

The huddle is how we get our strength and courage back in the middle of the game. This is prayer time. Ephesians 16:18 says, "In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out." We not only pray for ourselves, but for our brothers and sisters. We need to lift not only our own spirits but the spirits of our team mates as well!

Now that we have our game plan all in order, it is time for us to begin really making an effort to stand out. I don't want to be an okay or average player at the game of life. In fact, we are told not to be average players. In Matthew 5:14-16 it says, "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

In order to do this, we must be prepared and the way to do that is to apply the things mentioned above and ask yourself 4 questions:
  1. Is my life lived to fulfill my wants and needs or do I focus on living for Christ?
  2. Am I ashamed of my faith, or do I share it with everyone that will listen?
  3. Do I live as one that is OF this world or one that is only IN this world?
  4. Is my life a living testament to God?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

From Shack to Temple Weight Loss Wednesday pt 050

So I was going to start writing again about my weight, but I hurt my leg yesterday and will be putting off the 5K a day for two weeks. Due to that I will begin writing the blog in two weeks with all kinds of good things. That said, I can tell you this. I was doing great, down about 25 pounds when my daughter was born. I slacked and did not go to the gym and had a couple of bad meals and I was full blown back the way I was before.
I was watching what I ate. I was drinking water, tea and milk. I was waking up at 4:30 5 days a week so I could go to the gym. Now I am eating horribly, I drink at least one mocha frappacino a day. I am having trouble pulling myself out of bed at 7 to get to work. It has gotten bad, all because I allowed the door to open.
Here is what I am going to do. I am going to use the rest of this week to get my goals down and figure out what I need to do daily. I will use that to start the blog you will get in two weeks, as well as how it is going. All I know now is that I am suffering, gaining weight and am lethargic because I gave in. By giving in, by cracking the door to food and sloth it has taken back over.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Saturday, September 1, 2012

BLiR VLog from 08/26/2012 - 09/01/2012

08/26 GIGO or Garbage In Garbage Out

08/27  Why Christ is My Higher Power

08/28 Living to Your Potential

08/29  Eternally Optimistic

08/30 What is BLiR and More Information on the Upcoming Event

08/31 Why I am Grateful for My Addiction

09/01 Alcohol is a Drug, Period

BLiR VLog 08/19/2012 - 08/25/2012

08/21 Attitude of Gratitude and Staying Eternally Optimistic

08/22 Why I Don't Like the Word Recovered

08/23 What Do They Mean When They Say, "Turn it Over to God"

08/24 Anger and the Power of Prayer

08/25 Dealing with Racing Thoughts

BLiR VLog 08/12/2012 - 08/18/2012

08/12 Forgiveness and Resentments

08/13 Rambling About My New Daughter