Friday, April 29, 2011

Control Freaks

     This semester I have let myself get out of shape and Thursday my kind boss didn't help matters by buying the office pizza for lunch. So I decided I was going to start running again, so later that day I went for a run. The first mile everything was good I was breathing a little heavy but that was to be expected. As I passed a mile and a half I started thinking maybe this isn't such a good idea but I was halfway done so I kept on running. At two miles someone stopped me and asked if I needed an oxygen tank and a wheelchair and I ended by walking the last half mile back to my apartment feeling defeated and dejected about not being able to finish the run. 
     So often this is how Christians live their lives. We realize that we have been living in sin and decide that we need to change. So we start off on our journey back to Christ, but instead of giving control of our lives back to Christ we decide that we can make it back on our own. At first it appears that our way is working and we weren't expecting it to be easy so at the first sign of trouble we keep on doing things our way. Soon it appears to us that we have come a long way  from where we were, but at the same time Christ still seems so far away. This is where a lot of times we get into trouble; we don't know which way to go and oftentimes we end up going back to what is familiar, are sinful ways. So now we're stumbling and gasping for air, but we still haven't allowed the One who could carry us the rest of the way to take control. 
     This is something that for most of life (and even now occasionally) that I struggled with. I felt like I could control my own life and I really didn't want to give anyone else control. However, during my first semester of college my life began to fall apart; I lost all desire for engineering, which is what I have wanted to do my whole life, I was struggling in most of my classes, which had never happened before, and the thing that was worst to me was that I could feel myself losing control and I hated it. Early this semester, while trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life, I looked back on my life and realized what a mess I had made trying to do things my way, so I decided that I would give God full control of my life, not just parts of it but all of it. Has everything been perfect since? no, but a few days later I realized God was calling me to full time missions, giving me a purpose again, and I finally understood the phrase "a peace that surpasses understanding," when you give control to God you no longer have to worry, because you have the God that created and controls the universe leading your life. I leave you with a challenge: spend time in prayer repenting of any sins and getting your heart and mind purified before the Lord, then surrender your entire life to God's control. This is a lengthy passage but I encourage to read all of it since we so often take parts of it our of context; Luke 12:22-32 says,

 "22And he said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.31Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
 32 "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also"

If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ please scroll to the bottom of the page where you can find out how to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Olive Press

This morning at Sherwood we watched a video entitled "The Story of the Olive Press" unfortunately I could not find the video, but I will try to convey a sense of what was in it. Bear with me through the history lesson I promise its important to what I have to say.
After olives had fully ripened and turned a dark purple they were picked by shaking the olive tree until they fell to the ground. They were then placed into a large bowl shaped stone. A large millstone with a pole running through the middle of it would be pushed around the inside of the bowl by a donkey or ox. This would result in the olives and their seeds being crushed into a paste.
The paste was then placed in bags made of ropes and place on a large stone. A wooden beam was placed over the bags and weights would be added one at a time. This stone is on the far right in the picture below.
The oil that came out of with the first weight was called "virgin oil." This was the finest oil and was used for cooking and anointing. The oil that was pressed out after the second weight was added was used for light and for medicinal purposes. Finally what came out with the third weight, or press, contained large amounts of lye and was used to make soap. 

Now here's where things go from boring to awesome. The Hebrew word for olive press is "Gat Shemanim" if you have ever been to an Easter Service I'm sure you know that after the "last supper" Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray. Gethsemane was located at the base of the Mount of Olives and the Greek word Gethsemane means "olive press." So Jesus went to an olive oil factory to pray. Reading the crucifixion story I can not  help but draw the parallel between the olives being crushed until the oil flowed freely and our Savior being beaten until his precious blood flowed just as freely. A few more parallels with the olive press and Christ can be seen. The first press or the virgin oil was used for anointing and the title Christ is derived from the Hebrew Messiah and means literally; covered in oil, anointed. The second press was used for light and medicinal purposes; Jesus is both the light of the world and the Healer of our brokenness. Finally, the third press was used for cleansing and Christ's blood was poured out to cleanse us of our sins. Just some things to think about this Easter.

If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ please scroll to the bottom of the page where you can find out how to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Building Materials

"10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11For no one can lay foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (ESV)

What are you building your life with? So many times when leading a Disciple Now group or a Sunday School class I have thrown in what I think a scripture means without first consulting God, the writer of the Scriptures,  throwing in my hay instead of God's gold. How often have you talked about sports or the weather with a coworker or friend and never mentioned God, placing a wooden block where you could have placed a diamond? I know I do it all the time, especially on campus.  How much spare time have you wasted this past week, when you could have made an eternal impact in someone's life? 
    One day we will all stand before God, whether you believe He is real or not, and He will put a testing fire to our lives, our "houses." What will be left of yours? A few pieces of gold? Will it all be burned away? Or will you have built a house out of gold, silver, and jewels on a firm foundation that will never burn away or be destroyed?

If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ please scroll to the bottom of the page where you can find out how to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 4, 2011

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found... is how one of my all time favorite songs starts. Christ is our firm foundation, our stronghold which will never be shaken or destroyed, no matter how fierce the storm or how large the problem. A couple of scriptures that reflect this are Psalms 20:7 (ESV), "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." and 2 Samuel 22:3 (ESV), "my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence." It's important to remember that God doesn't promise to keep us from physical harm, in fact, if you are imitating Christ you are guaranteed to experience persecution of some sort. That shouldn't get you down though, Jesus said, "Blessed is he who is persecuted for my sake" and Paul repeatedly is seen rejoicing in his suffering, if your being persecuted you are in good company. When it seems like everyone is out to get us and nothing seems to be going our way we can find a peace and joy that surpasses understanding, by running to our refuge and strength, "our ever present help in times of trouble." A while back I read a blog post that expresses this, perhaps a little better than I did: My Hope is Found

If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ please scroll to the bottom of the page where you can find out how to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.