Looking Through Root Beer

You are a blur to everyone who think they know you.  Some may see you slightly clearer than others but still no better than if they were looking through a bottle of root beer.  There is only one who truly knows you, and get this–it isn’t you.

Indeed, some of us don’t know ourselves at all and we don’t understand why we do and say what we do and say.  Our own actions and the reasoning behind them is a mystery to us.  We are like Paul in Romans 7… “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

Often, others see us better through the root beer than we can see ourselves.  The people around us can see the inclinations, motivations, flaws, and insecurities of our character that we ourselves refuse to recognize and admit.  We, looking through our own bottle, believe we see everyone else’s flaws so clearly but we are blind to our own.  It is self-righteous, self-blindness.

There is a remedy for this blindness, though.  Well, remedy is the wrong word.  There is a miracle-cure.  There is one out there who has on multiple occasions caused the blind to see.  Jesus.  We need to find Him.

Something keeps hitting me lately, rocking me like a punch to the jaw.  How did I not see it years ago?  Pretty much every problem mankind comes across is made better or cured by one thing:  Getting to know God better, getting to know Jesus.  It makes EVERY problem easier.  It doesn’t matter how bad the problem; it doesn’t matter how much we already know about God, knowing Him better will help.

Take this self-blindness I speak of:  Learning more about God and understanding how he sees us, can only help us see who we truly are in his eyes, and our own.

A.J.

 

Gazebos Aren’t Pools

If you make something and set it on your own property, everything that happens with that something is your business, correct?  Say you build a gazebo in your backyard to be used for gazebo type activities.  Your gazebo, however, has other ideas.  It refuses to be a gazebo; that’s too tranquil.  It wants to be a pool.  You understand that you didn’t create the gazebo to be anything other than what it is and trying to be something it is not will only confuse the poor thing further.  So you tell your gazebo,  “Dude, you’re not a pool.”  It pretends not to hear you, though, and tries to convince the hose to pump it full of water, but the hose says, “Sorry, I am a lawnmower.”

We live in a crazy world with half of humanity trying to convince themselves that they are something they are not, like independent of God.

We, each one of us, male or female, is a creation of God, set here on His planet to be what God created us to be.  We are owned by Him, living in His universe by His provision, and every single thing we do IS HIS BUSINESS.  We are people–designed to reflect the character of Our Creator, His infinitely powerful, infinitely loving, infinitely merciful, grace lavishing character.

A.J.

 

A guy blasted me not long ago, so I considered clocking him. I am pretty sure I would have felt good about it too, unless I broke my hand on his face.
 
As an adult, though, I figured I should try acting like one.  I decided instead to try something relatively new for me.  I turned the other cheek… and the guy blasted me there as well.
 
So, yeah, ouch. 
 
Being the kind of guy I am, I thought: Well I’ve got two other cheeks I can turn his way…
 
I digress.  Sorry.  I am an adult; I keep forgetting.  More significantly, I am a Christian.  That, I don’t forget, but it still doesn’t feel like second nature to me.  It feels hard, especially when it comes to forgiveness.
 
I am learning, though, that forgiveness is a process for me.  It is not automatic that because I am forgiven by God I will then easily forgive anyone who hurts me.  I suppose that is directly related to my pride.
 
Okay… maybe I just figured something out.
 
I have been learning lately that the more I learn about God the greater I see him, which leads directly to a better understanding of my place in the pecking order of theDSC_0165 universe, which leads to humility.  And if forgiving is easier if you don’t have such a high opinion of yourself, then it follows that getting to know God better will make the process of forgiveness that much faster and easier. 
 
I guess I have my homework.
 
A.J.

Love That Surpasses All Knowledge

jeb-buchman-1038005-unsplash.jpgI can explain my love for my wife and children in a way that you will understand. There are words for the kind of love I have for them, and most people have that kind of love for someone, so you will know what I am talking about. I can even explain my love for God to you. Once again, there are words that can adequately explain my feelings. Though I hate to admit it, my love is finite. At this stage of my existence, there is a limit to my love, even my love for God.

Christians believe that God’s love for us is a completely different matter. There are no words in any language that can express the depth of feeling that God has for the people he has made. Love, the way humans understand the word, does not come close. Not only is it not in the same ballpark, it’s not in the same galaxy. Just as there is an immeasurable gulf between our own goodness and God’s goodness, so too is the difference between our human love and God’s divine love.

It is beyond our understanding. We cannot fathom the immensity of it. Love, however, is the only word we have for it. We can throw some adjectives in front of it and get a hair closer, but when you’re trying to jump the Mississippi, it doesn’t matter if you jump six feet or twenty-six feet, you’re going to get wet.

A.J.

A Day in the Life

Your country is occupied by Roman soldiers. You must be careful what you say, even among long trusted friends for you have heard stories of  fellow Jews being spies for the enemy.  Lifechanging sums of money are being offered to people who can point the way to anyone who might speak or act against the invaders.  Last week they scourged a man you knew in the square until you could see the bones in his back.  He died the next day.

Your family is hungry today but that is not a new thing.  There has been a drought in recent years in this already dry climate and food has been scarce and expensive.  Your daughter is very sick and you don’t know if she will live or die but you know she must eat.  You have held back money to escape the outrageous tax the Romans demand for every denarius you make.  If they catch you the penalty is unspeakable but what choice do you have?  Even without paying the taxes it will not be enough to keep your daughter alive another week, let alone your whole family.

Every day you pray for God to save your family and your people but your hope is fading. You wonder if he is even listening.  Does he care?

You must now go out and find another job because the day before soldiers came and pulled your gentle employer from his barn and in front of yourself and the man’s family, beat him until he was unrecognizable, set his home ablaze along with his barns and fields, and left with his unconscious body and all his livestock including your own mule. The cross they nailed your employer to could be seen in the distance from behind your own home, along with his wife and children at the foot of it. You can just make out their wailing in the dry wind. They accused him of sedition but there were no witnesses, no trial, they didn’t even let him speak in his defense.

Today is the Sabbath. Your employer was to give you a package of food as part of your weekly pay but that package burned in the fire so you must butcher your last chicken for the day’s food. If the Pharisees catch you working on a Sabbath it will not go well for you.

But this morning… when you were at the well before dawn about to transport ten gallons of water the long half mile uphill to your home, you heard friends talking excitedly about a man who was going from town to town speaking about God to the people. Jesus of Nazareth, they called him. They were saying he spoke like no one they had ever heard, that he spoke with authority, not a shred of doubt in his voice. They said he healed people of their diseases and infirmities. Your friends told you that old Zebedee, the blind man who always begged at the market in Cana was healed, that he could now see. You know Zebedee. You had looked into his fogged over useless eyes. It turned your stomach a little just to remember the sight of them. But now your friends were telling you those eyes were as sharp and bright as a teenager’s, that Zebedee was running through the market leaping for joy and praising God!

Your friends had said this man, Jesus, was telling the people that God loved them, like a father loves his child. You started to cry at that point, thinking of how much you love your gravely ill daughter. They said that the Pharisees were trying to discredit him but Jesus rebuked them angrily right in front of a great crowd. They said he seemed to know what they were going to say before they said it. You are doubtful of what you heard but your friends were full of hope. They were even saying he could be the Messiah.

Could it be possible? You want to believe there’s a chance but you don’t want to be disappointed again. Still, if there’s any possibility your daughter could be healed you have to take it. You don’t know where this man is now but quickly you pack up your whole family for a journey to see this man called Jesus. Your daughter is not fit to travel but she must. You will have to carry her however many miles it will be. As you start out along the dusty road you begin to pray again, hope now stirring within you.

Simpletons Like Me

I am not a complicated man.  For the most part, I see things in black and white.  I tend to believe that most things are what they appear to be.
Take creation for instance.  This universe had to come from somewhere.  There is zero chance that it created itself, because before it was a universe it was nothing, and the list of things that nothing has created is very short.  That means that something independent of and greater than this universe or anything in it must be responsible for its creation.  Therefore, there IS a God, and that God is unspeakably powerful.
Pretty simple, right?  So simple that many must look for a more complicated answer.
I have heard the theories.  People spend entire lifetimes obsessed with their complicated explanations of how nothing created everything.  They take their intellects and all their years of advanced education and point it towards disproving the most proven truth there has ever been, when they, themselves, are absolute proof of what they wish to disprove.
They scoff at, demean, and dismiss the people who believe the obvious.  We are simpletons because we didn’t go through years of mental gymnastics with our computers, calculators, and slide-rules to come up with the sum to 2+2.  The answer was obvious to us and we see that it is pointless to question it further.  We have moved on to the next question.
To many, though, two plus two can never equal four; there has to be another answer.  People fill blackboards with ridiculously involved equations to disprove the obvious, not actually because they think the obvious answer is wrong, but because they are afraid of the answer that the whole of creation points to…  They are afraid of the number four.  They are afraid of truth.  They are afraid of God.
They are afraid of God because they don’t know him; they can’t know him because they refuse to acknowledge he exists… because they are afraid of him.  It is a circle of unreason.  Now that is complicated.
Sad, cause if they knew him they would know he loves them.
A.J.akshat-vats-737427-unsplash

Friends

It took me a lot of years but I figured out the main thing that makes friends stay friends…

Kindness helps–but that’s not it.

Patience doesn’t hurt–but that’s not it.

Respect is important–but that’s not it either.

It is forgiveness that is at the heart of all lasting friendships, because sooner or later friends will be unkind, impatient, or disrespectful to the other.  Without forgiveness every friendship will crumble, eventually.

Friends extend grace to one another.  I know that’s probably in the first-grade basic friendship class, but I just figured it out.

A.J.DSC_0131