Finding Whose We Are: His Handiwork

Finding Whose We Are: His Handiwork

  • Career
  • Wealth
  • Relationships
  • Health
  • Accomplishments
  • Appearance

These are just a few of the many false identities that we are urged to embrace.

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Remember

Remember

I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.  I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds.   – Psalm 77:11-12

I would be lying if I told you that student teaching is easy. On the days that I make students cry, on the days that I forget to give full instructions, on the days that my lessons fail, I am convinced that I should just switch majors.

If I had a dollar for every time that I wanted to quit…

Hanging above the desk in my dorm room is a quote from Nicki Koziarz:

Sometimes you just need to look back and remember the places God has brought you through.

Surrounding the quote are dozens of pictures. There are pictures from Africa, from when I wanted to completely give up on ever making a decent video. There are pictures taken only days prior to my overnight stay in the DFW airport. There are pictures from all 4 years of college when I was anxious for a multitude of reasons.

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And the Lord brought me through all of it. So every time that the Enemy says that I am flailing and aimless, I must look back and see what the LORD has brought me through. If He brought me through those struggles, he will bring me through this one, too.

What is Christmas?

What is Christmas?

It seems that in December, we click the “fast forward” button on our already busy lives.  In addition to scheduling parties, concerts, and family gatherings, we join thousands of shoppers at the mall so that we can find the perfect gift for everyone on our list.  We also manage to find the time to decorate our houses with trees, tinsel, garland, lights, ornaments, and figurines.

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Why do we smash more activity into our busyness?  Because it is Christmastime!

But what exactly is Christmas?

When I asked Google about Christmas, I found some poetic results:

  • wrapping, and sticking, and envelope licking
  • tree decorating and staying up lating
  • shopping and bopping and parties non-stopping
  • stocking filling and lots of good willing

While those answers might sound pleasant, I think there has to be more to the most expensive holiday in the USA than “Monopoly cheating and quality streeting.”

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I originally drafted a post about the etymology of the word Christmas (Christ + mass) and how that is associated to what Christmas is, but I realized that Linus from Charlie Brown explained it better than I ever could.

 

Christmas is not a season of bustling bodies and predictable presents.

Christmas is not a month of extravagant parties and family feasts.

Christmas is not long days of travel and competitive board games.

Charlie Brown Snoopy and Peanuts Gang Nativity by MagnetsbyAbby:
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Christmas is a moment that changed all other moments.  Christmas is the birth of Jesus.

Not a Savior, Just the Truth

Not a Savior, Just the Truth

Over the summer, I attempted to listen to the audiobook version of Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle.  As I criss-crossed the state of Texas, I quickly lost track of Vivian and Harp’s whereabouts, and I abandoned the book until early October.  Although I am only about halfway through the novel (and I probably won’t formally review it when I am done), the basic premise of the story has left my mind curious.

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This is the summary from the book jacket:

Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivian Apple isn’t looking for a savior. She’s looking for the truth.

That last line haunts me…

Vivian Apple isn’t looking for a savior.  She’s looking for the truth.

Not savior.  Just truth.

Let me give some background information.  This fictional book is in no way Christian nor does it reference true Christianity.  In the novel, the “Evangelical Church of America” is essentially a cult started by a man named Frick who dreamed that God chose him to protect select individuals from the rapture and Apocalypse.  Indeed, Vivian did not need that sort of deceitful “salvation.”

Nonetheless, it is easy to think that we don’t need a Savior, we just want the truth.  Furthermore, we want OUR truth, the truth that works for us personally.  That truth can be anything as long as it makes sense to us and meets our personal needs.

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Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” – John 14:6

Jesus is the truth.  John 14:6 does not say that He “could be” the truth or “might become” the truth or “was” the truth.  He is the truth.  That truth is not relative or changing.

So if Vivian Apple only needs the truth, she needs Jesus.

But,

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We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.  – I John 4:14

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – I Timothy 1:15

The truth is that Jesus is also our Savior.  To believe the truth is to believe that He died for our sins, was buried, rose again, and is the Savior of the World.  You cannot separate the fact that Jesus is truth from the fact that Jesus is Savior.

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So if Vivian Apple needs the truth, Vivian Apple needs a Savior.

What Makes Jesus Different?

What Makes Jesus Different?

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Have you ever heard of the mythic hero archetype?  Every story is seemingly the same.  Someone is born under obscure circumstances.  They are sent on a quest and face various trials, but, ultimately, they succeed with heroic victory.  Here are a few of my favorite fictional heroes from Disney movies:
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Even as a child,  I knew that these stories were make-believe.  There was never a talking lion cub that hid with a meerkat and warthog in the Pridelands.  No boy named Mowgli was raised by wolves. A fairy godmother never turned a pumpkin into a coach, and carpets cannot really fly.
To many, the stories of Jesus look fictional.  Jesus walked on water.  He made blind men see and lame men walk.  Just look at His hero tale:
hero-story-jesus
At a glance, His life looks just as fake–if not more fantastical–than the four Disney characters I listed.  Is Jesus just another fairy tale, another myth, another man-made invention?
My unabashed answer is “NO!,” and let me tell you why:
– There is historical proof that Jesus walked this earth. Obviously, the Bible and other Christian sources affirm that Jesus lived.  Non-Christian sources prove the same fact.  The most famous secular source for information about Jesus is Josephus.  Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, and Tacitus all speak of Him as well.
– Christianity itself is proof that Jesus lived.  It is hard to start a religion of “Christ-followers” if there is no Christ to follow.  Christianity is one of the world’s largest religions, and Christians have established hospitals, orphanages, schools, and relief organizations.  Would people pour millions of dollars into a fairy tale?  Furthermore, people were martyred for following Christ’s teachings.  Would people be willing to die for a myth?  I certainly wouldn’t.
– The Bible (unlike a book of fairy tales) claims to be true, and it is verified by numerous contemporary writings.  Additionally, the fulfilled prophecies found in God’s Word give it validity.
Maybe I am a fool.   Maybe I am deceived.  Maybe I believe in a fairy tale.
But I don’t think so.
The proofs I listed above are enough to prove Jesus’ existence, but I believe that, above all else, personal life change is evidence of Christ.  In the past, I was enslaved by sin and spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1).  I tried to please myself and did whatever I wanted (Ephesians 2:3).
But God’s mercy is great, and he loved us very much. Though we were spiritually dead because of the things we did against God, he gave us new life with Christ. You have been saved by God’s grace.
-Ephesians 2:4-5
Christ freed me. My favorite fairy tales could never save me.  The Lion King taught me “Hakuna Matata” and The Jungle Book taught me that I only need “the bare necessities.”  But none of these stories changed my life.  Jesus alone changed my life.
Do I still struggle with selfish desires?  Yes.  Every single day.  But I can live in victory through Christ.
And that is how I know that Jesus is not a fairy tale.
He Still Saves

He Still Saves

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I’ve been “saved” since I was a small child.  Ever since one fateful night at the kitchen table, I have known that upon my death, I will spend eternity in Heaven.  Over the years, I subconsciously came to believe that because my salvation was complete, I didn’t need to hear the account of Christ’s sacrificial death.  I was saved from Hell, and that was enough.

But sometimes the battles of this early life are overwhelming.  The enemy’s attacks are ferocious and devastating.  That is when I must recall and claim the victory that Christ won when he rose from the dead.  I must “sing above the battle strife ‘Jesus saves.'”  He still saves.

Sometimes, Often, I don’t claim this victory.  I listen to the enemy’s lies and fall to his schemes.  I think that I must save myself from the trenches.  Before long, I am shadowed with a gloom of justice, and my heart craves mercy.  That mercy can only be found in Christ’s victory over the tomb.  Jesus still saves.

Yes, I only need to place my faith in Him one single time in order to be saved from eternal separation from God and damnation in Hell.  Nevertheless, I need daily faith in Jesus to face the struggles of the world.  I need a constant Friend and a daily Rescuer.

So give the winds a mighty voice…

Let the nations now rejoice…

Shout salvation full and free…

This our song of victory:

Jesus saves!

And He still saves.

Small Potatoes

Small Potatoes

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{Disclaimer for all of my Bible college friends:  yes, I used the Message instead of ESV, KJV, NASB, etc.  No, I am not a heretic 🙂 }

I sit across the supper table from a friend that I met the first day of freshman orientation.  After three years of college, a lot has changed.  He is engaged and about to add Master’s level classes on top of his undergrad courses.  I am writing lesson plans and preparing for student teaching.  Both of us feel stretched thin with work, classes, ministry, and social events.  Yet, we have remained close friends.

“We’re old,” I say, and he nods solemnly.  Three years older.  Three years academically smarter.  Three years supposedly wiser.

And those three years were far from easy–academically, emotionally or physically.  We faced daunting tests, questionable cafeteria food, unending papers, dramatic relationships, and late nights.  Meanwhile, the world around us fought ISIS, diseases, hunger, human rights, poverty, and politics.  As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “On the outside it often look[ed] like things [were] falling apart on us.”  It would be easy for us to become depressed.

These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. 

– 2 Corinthians 4:17

Small potatoes.  Just like the french fries that my friend quickly devours off of his plate, the world’s struggles will disappear.  There is something beyond this world that we hold as our hope.

There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

-2 Corinthians 4:18

Yes, this world boasts hardships aplenty.  But there is so much more beyond this temporary life. Beyond this life, there is a street paved with pure gold.  There is a city surrounded with twelve pearl gates (Rev. 21:21).  There is a land with no night, no toil, and no tears (Rev. 21: 4, 22:3, 22:5).  Most importantly, there is a Savior who is preparing for us to join him (John 14:1-3).  There is an eternity of praising our God (Rev. 22:5).

Heaven is our hope when time gets hard.  Heaven is our promise as we endure this world’s pain.  Heaven is our eternal celebration.

The world is just a small potato.