Friends Don’t Let Friends Stress Over Finals

There’s this sign standing outside the University Center at UH that simply reads:

Friends Don’t Let Friends

Stress Over Finals

I’ve never actually read the rest of the sign, but those words  have stood out to me for the last couple of weeks.

My semester has been a series of personal failures — highlighting new areas where I dramatically fail to meet the standard of “passable” let alone “perfect”. And these last couple weeks of the semester have been particularly stressful. Faced with the consequences of my own laziness and disobedience, I was absolutely overwhelmed and it was hard not to completely give in to depression.

But God:

He showed Himself to be Himself — again.

He sent a friend: a lovely young lady I’ve know since high school. We go to different schools now, but we keep in touch (or try).

She called me as I was sinking into the mire and just prayed with me. She reminded me of the goodness of the Lord and at the perfect timing sent this text:

“‘But YOU, O LORD are a GOD merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.’ – Psalm 86:15

HE isn’t just loving and faithful! GOD is “abounding in” love & faithfulness, in how faithful & loving HE is!!

Holy crap!! That’s awesome!!”

She reminded me of who our God is. She pulled up a text describing His character, the nature of His being. The comfort that came was amazing. The God who created the universe, who is so just that He will let no sin go unpunished, who paints with the weather, and sculpts in galaxies — He is also rich! in love and faithfulness. He is so much more than we ever can know or remember Him to be.  And in the hours that I struggled to wade through the daunting tasks set before me, this knowledge was absolutely restorative.

Well, tonight I got to remind her — and myself — of what this masterful and gracious and just God has done.

I sent her a text just to see what was going on — and she called me, the weight of stress and pressure to succeed burdened her voice. Amid her series of finals and marathon study sessions she was feeling discouraged. She was studying diligently and working hard, but it seemed like it just wasn’t enough.

So, I reminded her of the instructions she had given me last week – “When you start to feel stressed, just give it to God,” and then we prayed. And as we prayed I remembered:

Jesus Christ, the God-man, who reconciled us back to the Father, experienced stress. He knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane and sweat blood as the fate of billions fell upon His shoulders. In a matter of hours He would face the intolerable on behalf of the intolerable and He would face it alone. Yet He conquered. He successfully took the punishment for the sins of all who believe, and forever removed the sting and victory of death. He rose victoriously, never to die again, and to bring new life to the world.

Our God – He’s not a God who sits removed and is not familiar with the experiences of those who serve Him. No.

Our God walked among us and suffered for us. He can relate to us – and He cares. He cares.

As your friend, during this time of finals, I pray that you come into a knowledge of Jesus Christ and totally trust in Him. For your everything. For your everything.

Is Charlie Sheen Winning (Duh!)…or Losing It?

Monday, March 8, VH1 aired a TV special entitled “Charlie Sheen: Winning…Or Losing It?

Dr. Drew Pinsky — reality TV’s most popular medical professional (most popularly known from Celebrity Rehab) — hosted the show.

The show went in on Charlie Sheen.

Dr. Drew and other expert physicians, etc. who “have never met or treated Charlie Sheen” spent an hour dissecting his recent behavior.

They talked about how irresponsible he’s been. How dangerous his behavior is. And about all of the medical terms for his condition. They specifically highlighted how his behavior can be characterized as “hypo-manic.”

The list of symptoms for the condition were spot on with Sheen’s recent behavior, which they made sure we were aware of by craftily plugging in clips from his latest interviews and media appearances.

His problems were impossible to miss. Drew and the other medical experts were successful in exposing just how bad Sheen’s situation is.

Thirty minutes into the show I don’t know if there was a viewer in the audience who could deny Dr. Drew’s hypothesis: Charlie Sheen is hypo-manic.

And, then…

The show basically ended.

Dr. Drew and the others stressed the need for Sheen to have some sort of intervention.

But… none of them — including Dr. Drew — seemed to be too interested in taking serious steps to help Charlie Sheen or connecting with someone who could.

They seemed fine with diagnosing him from afar and giving him a lofty and general prescription.

But no one seemed to be too interested in getting their own hands dirty and taking steps toward real solutions for Sheen.

This last Thursday, a dear friend reminded us of the humility of God.

He showed us how in Genesis God began a pattern of reaching into human history to correct our most destructive problem: pride.

Though we spit in God’s face, and try this life thing on our own (though we were never meant to succeed at life without God), God didn’t just sit up on His lofty throne in heaven and watch us bury ourselves under an unconquerable amount of sin.

In the humblest act ever (literally ever), after accurately defining our problem, God Himself decided to become our solution.

He sent His Son (Himself) to absorb the consequences of our actions. On the cross — Christ died the spiritual death that we all deserve and paid for the spiritual debt that we all owe God as a result of our sin.

And after His Son successfully completed this mission (which we know because of His resurrection), He sent His Holy Spirit (Himself) to hold private interventions for us.

His Holy Spirit shows us our own faults, shows us the consequences of our lives of pride, and then walks with us through the recovery process, which begins and is guaranteed success by faith in Jesus Christ.

He also calls out to the whole world through those of us who He is helping to walk through His rehab program (commonly referred to as sanctification) and in countless other “random” events and circumstances in our lives.

The Points:

  • If you don’t trust in Christ – let this be your intervention – start asking questions and get to find out about this God who loves you – loved you enough to come down and get you.
  • If you do trust in Christ: I challenge you to start loving folks hands on. Don’t just diagnose folks and walk away. Share with them the love that you’ve come to know. You be the one to lovingly tell them the truth and introduce them to the solution. Put away the pride, put on the love. And be active – just like our sweet rehabilitator.

The Reason

“The greatest commandment is this:

…Love the LORD your God will all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength.” Mark 12:29-30

Uh oh!

I heard this super convicting sermon the other day coming from this scripture.

The pastor went in on just how we are supposed to love God.

He talked about how we’re supposed to:

  • love God passionately — be willing to live and die for Him!
  • love God with our full capacity of thought — spend time getting to  know Him intellectually
  • love God with our bodies — “don’t try and be holy in your hearts and hoes with your bodies” (#ouch, Pastor!)
  • love God with the full essence of our beings

Sitting there, I realized that I was lacking in all of these areas. As many things as I might be “doing” that look good, my passion and commitment are lacking. And as far as loving God with my full essence — I’m still way too selfish to be anywhere close.

BUT

The preacher touched on something else that gave me hope:

“We love Him because He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19.

This short verse reminded me of a couple things:

  1. God gave us the ultimate example of love.
  2. His love for us was never dependent on our love for Him.
  3. Our love is merely a response to His love.

At the beginning of the sermon, I found myself looking at the ways Jesus instructed that we should love God and trying to develop a checklist that I could follow.

However, when I stopped and remembered the extent of God’s love — that He would rescue me from His wrath and my own reckless endangerment of my life — and that He demonstrated this love while I still hated Him, well…

  • There were things that I stopped wanting to do — things that I know disappoint Him;
  • There were things that I started wanting to do — getting to know Him more, spending more time in His Word and in prayer

The sermon ended with the preacher reminding us that God is worthy of our love. He is worth our passion, our intellect, our physiques, and our souls.

In light of who He is and what He has done — nothing is truer. He is the reason why we should love.

Epidemic

Brothers and sisters there is an epidemic in Haiti.

Cholera:

  • Over 60,000 have been taken ill by it,
  • As of Nov. 24 1,415 have been killed by it.

As Christians we should take an active concern when calamities such as this strike.

We were all victims of the worse epidemic to strike mankind: sin.

While we lay dying, hopelessly addicted to the very source of our sickness, the love of God manifested through the life, wrath appeasing death, and promising resurrection of Jesus Christ, brought light, hope, and new life to our situation.

Instead of allowing us to die in our illness, God through Christ brought the full remedy: freedom from the punishment of our sins (the punishment we deserved was given to Christ), new life complete with a heart change freeing us from the enslaving desire to live in sin, and the power to flee sin through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in all who have come into new life through Christ.

As we have been given love, life, and hope, so we ought to share.

A nation needs help.

1 John 3:16-18 tells us that we are to love in sacrificial action as is reflective of the sacrificial love that saved us; those who have ought to give as they see their brothers in need.

Christians, in this time of great need for Haiti let us give, tangibly and bountifully.

Here are some ways:

Or research your own ways. But, decide to do something!

Let us give as we can and seek to share the eternal hope and comfort that was given to us.

Sweet Failure

Learning to accept failure has been hard for me.

Growing up I took a lot of pride in being a good kid.

I was rambunctious in elementary school, but always with a sort of nerdy catch. Like: I wouldn’t do my work in class because I was reading ninth and tenth grade level novels in my desk. Or: I’d be tardy after lunch because I was too busy discussing the differences between the Catholic and King James Bibles.

I was weird; but as I got older I turned these odd tendencies into the key pillars of my identity.

I took pride in:

  • my desire to learn
  • my appreciation of diversity
  • my ability to excel academically (if I decided to apply myself)
  • my willingness to embrace the odd and the old and the unpopular (I studied Latin for four years)

And for me failure was unacceptable!

I just knew that if I really applied myself, really exerted enough effort, that there was nothing that I should not be able to do. Nothing.

But all that changed!

In The City we walked through book of Romans and my own shortcomings were undeniably exposed:

10as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”

Romans 3:10-12

The book showed how both by my standards and by God’s standards I was an imperfect and rebellious creature.

If I was following my own standards – I never quite lived up to them. I always made little exceptions (like “I’m a good student, if I apply myself) so that I didn’t have to acknowledge my own lack.

By God’s standards – the fact that I had even created my own standards was a sign of my rebellion against Him.

And the reason I had created my own standard was because 1.) I knew that I couldn’t meet all of God’s standard (partly because by the time I’d actually sat down and read all of Leviticus and Deuteronomy it was too late – not that I was keeping up with 10 laws that I did know) and 2.) because I still had an understanding of what right and wrong was and still knew cognitively that I should be trying to do something at least kind of right (though I refused to even live up to my own lower standard 100%).

At that same time I was struggling with my classes, struggling with adjusting to the very different cultural make-up of the University of Houston (definitively situated in 3rd Ward, Texas), and struggling with applying all of the random knowledge that I had spent my short lifetime collecting.

It was undeniable: though I had prided myself on being a certain type of person and doing certain types of things I was unable to actually be  and consistently do those things.

If the true test of success was measured on a pass-fail standard, I had failed.

Thankfully:

Romans 3:21 – Romans 10 or 11 are about God’s epic plan to deal with our inherent failure through what is called the Gospel or Good News.

God understood that we all fail and He sent a Man who did not.

He gave this Man the punishment that we all deserve and credited all who trust him as Savior and follow him as their Lord with the perfect life that He lived on Earth.

He then raised this perfect Man on earth as proof that this Man is righteous and that we in him can look forward to an eternal Life like He now lives in heaven.

On top of that – God even provides the faith that we need just to trust and follow him.

He understands our insufficiency and made a provision to satisfy His own justice and show us loving mercy.

The 1st step though is acknowledging our own failure.

In our current study in 1 John on Real Faith the first chapter tells us this:

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Basically:

An acceptance of your own failure is the first step to walking into the success of Jesus Christ.

And so, what has always been so bitter for me, has become a sweet reminder of the love that God has for me and his gracious goodness in spite of me.

Jesus Is The Real Hero

Captivate Us

I heard this song on 89.3 and just had to share. Enjoy:

Your face is beautiful
And Your eyes are like the stars
Your gentle hands have healing
There, inside the scars

Your loving arms, they draw me near
And Your smile, it brings me peace
Draw me closer, oh, my Lord
Draw me closer, Lord, to Thee

Captivate us, Lord Jesus
And set our eyes on You
Devastate us with Your presence
Falling down

And rushing river, draw us nearer
And holy fountain consume us with You
And captivate us, Lord Jesus, with You

Your voice is powerful
And Your words are radiant bright
And in Your breath and shadow
I will come close and abide

You whisper love and life divine
And Your fellowship is free
Draw me closer, oh, my Lord
Draw me closer, Lord, to Thee

Captivate us, Lord Jesus
And ser our eyes on You
Devastate us with Your presence
Falling down

And let everything be lost in the shadows
Of the light of Your face
Let every chain be broken from me
As I’m bound in Your grace

For Your yoke is easy, Your burden is light
You’re full of wisdom, power and might
And every eye will see You

Captivate us, Lord Jesus
And set our eyes on You
Devastate us with Your presence
Falling down

And rushing river, draw us nearer
And holy fountain consume us with You
Captivate us, Lord Jesus, with You
And captivate us, Lord Jesus, with You

Captivate us with You

Fantasies

I love to fantasize.

Growing up – and being completely honest, up till quite recently – I constantly returned to a favorite fantasy:

Myself dressed in white, in the arms of the man who loved me. And oh! how this man would love me. He would never be able to let me go. Ever!

Whether we were standing before the altar, or dancing, relaxing on a Saturday morning, old, young, or pregnant – this man remained as sweetly in love as the first day we met.

Because, it was of course love at first sight for him – which he would have relentlessly pursued and cultivated into a passionately monogamous, life-long marriage.

Recently, my fixation with this image began to bother me.

It was kind of idolatrous: I would revert back to this image more than I would ever reflect on the goodness of God.

God, to me, seemed more about some moral rules and some remote fatherly affection than the very fiery passion that I imagined in my fantasy.

But…the Bible showed me otherwise.

For instance:

Hosea: God sets up a graphic metaphor to illustrate his love and frustration. (Honestly, the fact that He even asked a man to do this just to illustrate his point ought to be testament enough to his zeal for His people! But let’s get to the illustration.)

He has a man go out and marry a whore and have children with her. The man does, and they do, and she does exactly what must have been anticipated of her: cheats. Whether she’s back out in the streets or just roaming among the neighbors, she is whoring herself out. Now, being married with a husband able to provide for her in every way, she has no “need”, she whores because she chooses to.

At this point God exclaims: he is disgusted by his people (whom he called out of idolatry, choose for no merit of their own, made a covenant with or married) who were playing the whore by worshipping idols.

He would indeed expose them for who they were! Let them be ravaged by the weight and consequences of their own deeds without His protection so that they would know that it was them – and not their whoring – which had provided them with the blessings they had taken for granted.

BUT —

Then – oh my! – He would, and I quote from the ESV, “allure her.”

Because He refers to his people as a woman.

He says that He’ll take her into the wilderness and make her forget about the idols she used to worship.

He will establish a place of peace where she can reside in safety.

He will marry her.

“And I will betroth you to me forever.” He’s switched from a third person reference to a second, talking directly to His unfaithful people, the bride He won’t let go.

“I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.” – Hosea 2:19-20

AND, So:

God instructs Hosea to go back and love his whoring wife, even as God loves His people.

Hosea goes and redeems, or buys back his wife.

Just like God bought us back through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

We choose sin. We chose sin. Often: everyday.

Yet, the love that God has, is mind blowing, life-shattering: literally! It is a love that allowed Him to absorb His own perfect wrath for His people (perfect wrath being the worst kind because it knows just how to exact the worst pain and in the most effective way so that a perfect justice can be doled out), so that they might be together, for an eternity.

Full exposure to this love has to produce change in the recipient!

It will cause the recipient to forget about every idol fantasy that they had before and to dwell incessantly on the unmatched love of God.

Midnight Showing

I’m going to see Twilight: Eclipse, the midnight showing.

In preparation I realized that I had to get an outfit!

There is no way that anyone can go to a midnight showing of a movie like this without being dressed up. You’ll be the odd man out.

My goodness, people start to think that you’re not a real fan.

They question why you’ve come and what you were thinking for not dressing up.

In fact, your attire is a representation of your love for the film.

Yeah — it’s that serious.

And God Thinks So, Too

God has a number of things that He wants us to put on:

FIRST: Put On Christ! (Romans 13:14) And make no provision for the flesh.

1. Put on Christ! Trust in the security and righteousness that He gives you when you have faith in Him!

  • Jesus Christ lived a perfect life!
  • He died a gruesome death – and suffered indescribable spiritual torment – in order to pay for sins which He never committed, so
  • He could buy back those who trust in Him from facing a wrath that we could never satisfy (or, that would last forever) so
  • We could live, beginning with our lives now, forever reconciled with God, through Him, who satisfies every longing of our souls – who, in fact, completes us.
  • And! He dresses us in His righteousness so that every time His Father looks at us He sees the righteousness of Christ! Amazing! We are bought and kept by the free gift of God, His Son Jesus Christ.
  • Have faith, put on Christ!

THEN: Put On Christ! Wear His Attributes! (Colossians 3:12-17)

2. Look like the name you claim! Jesus didn’t just walk around any kind of way.

Just like the fans (the real ones, anyway) who don’t show up to the midnight showing, or  the game, concert, etc., without donning their costumes, jerseys, team colors, or t-shirts, followers of Christ are instructed to don their team colors – the evidence that they’re really repping for #TeamJesus now. Namely,

  • Compassion,
  • Kindness,
  • Humility,
  • Meekness,
  • Patience,
  • Forgiveness,
  • Love,

Always hiding the Word of God in your heart.

Become a fan, get the costume.

Border Control

Arizona’s new law:

States that any person engaged in some form of lawful contact with a law enforcement officer may be asked to prove their lawful residence in the United States. If their legal presence cannot be determined then they may be subjected to fines, jail time, and action by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

THE PROBLEM

United States Citizens will be subject to checks on their right to be in this country based on nothing more than racial suspicions.

This law is meant to regulate the seemingly unchecked influx of Mexican immigrants.

Meaning, one ethnicity will be subjected to this new law, not one group of law breakers.

Citizens with illegal non-citizen residents will be subjected to the same sort of invasion, not on the basis of their breaking a law, but on the basis of the suspicion that their skin color may cast.

My Problem With This Law As a Dual Citizen

In the other Kingdom that I am a citizen of, we operate under a different political philosophy.

We realize that the non-citizens who live among us often have the potential to be our greatest allies, even the ones who are downright inimical.

We seek to show them the Path to citizenship so that they may join our ranks, and until they do, we show them love, kindness, and patience – the products of being a citizen in this Kingdom.

We understand that not all will be receptive and friendly to our Kingdom, but we rely on the King to weed those individuals out, understanding that we don’t have the insight to be the judge of that.

Aslo, we know that our citizenship is not based on our actions. Citizenship was made possible by the Prince who paid and ensures that we may enter and remain forever.

We have relationship with the Prince, and through the Prince with the King, so we do things that please Him out of love; things that He’s indicated that He likes.

However, our ability to do those things has no influence on our standing as citizens. We stand secure by the work of the Prince, and are found approved as we have trust in Him.

In this kingdom there is no fear of the threat of deportation or aggression from the authority that granted us citizenship.

We have security.

You Can Join This Kingdom

You can join this kingdom where citizenship is secure and unquestioned, where growth is encouraged instead of doubt and fear.

The key to this kingdom is faith in the Son, namely, Jesus Christ.

Faith that:

  • He lives (currently)
  • He died: to satisfy the debt you owe God and to give you an excess of credit in God’s eyesight
  • He offers you eternal life (irrevocable citizenship) in His Father’s kingdom.