Neil - Changes and Growth

Growing and Discerning...After the Heart of God

Friday, December 30, 2005

I’m being “that guy” right now…I just got through watching the Giants game with my friend Adam who I am spending Christmas with in Butler, TN. After reading for a bit, I have now busted out the laptop, am sitting in a large room with huge windows overlooking the Appalachian forests and a lake, reflecting on what I read, and I have a pen behind my ear. Yea, I’m definitely “that guy.” It is really beautiful out here though. Temps are in the 40s-50s, and its been sunny the past 2 days. We don’t have internet, so I’ll tell you that I’m writing this on Christmas Eve. I gained 10 pounds last night of Christmas goodies, and after having a couple beers, felt the holiday weight TENFOLD!

Anyways, back to my reading. After fighting the urge to read it, as I often do when I am recommended a book to read by multiple friends, I bought Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller and after 24 hours, as promised by those who recommended, I am more than halfway done with the book. And, of course, it is a very good read as well. I’ll copy the opening paragraph so you can get an idea of the theme of the book. Miller is referring to seeing a jazz musician play on the street for 15 minutes, and never opening his eyes:

“…After that I liked jazz music. Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way. I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.”

Actions speak louder than words.

I plan on writing a number of times on this book, and actually plan on maybe reading another book or two this week, lots of things have been going through my head being up here in the mountains and I love having the time to get some things straight in my head, some time to pray and read – and I am thankful for this time that has been given to me.

On page 57, he says the following…if you’ve read it, it’s the chapter about the Penguin sex. If you haven’t read it, well, the title of that chapter will probably make you want to!

“I don’t think you can explain how Christian faith works either. It is a mystery. I love this about Christian spirituality. It cannot be explained, and yet it is beautiful and true. It is something you feel, and it comes from the soul.”

Anybody who has discussed faith with me knows this is similar to how I feel. The word indescribable comes to mind. Isn’t it ironic that the only word I can think of to “describe” faith is “indescribable?” Anyways, what better way. I can tell you why I pray, or why I go to church, or why I’m a Christian. I’d love to tell you these things, they are simple answers. But I can’t describe to you the joy I feel when I am sitting in the airport, and a lady who is cleaning the floors around me stops me when I’m reading a book and begins asking me about Christmas, my plans, and I end up talking to her for 20 minutes (which happened yesterday) and I can only smile and pray afterwards…I can’t describe to you what it feels like to wake up in the morning, knowing that there is something to be done today, that something God can do through me could change the life of another human being (which happened today). I can’t. And that’s awesome. That is why I am still intrigued by the Christian faith. Not because I can tell everybody what I feel all the time and how good it makes me feel. I’m still intrigued by it, because the things that matter the most, I can’t describe it to another person. I can’t explain it to anyone. Because I feel that while you can tell somebody about Christ and what he did, and tell them about living a Christian life, but you can’t tell somebody about a relationship with God, or how to do it. That true relationship with God, much like a relationship with another person, can be experienced by anybody, but properly explained by nobody.

This ties back to what I had written once about Evangelism – I have always said that the people who have influenced me the most in my life are those that didn’t say things to me, but those who I was able to observe; the Christians that have taught me the most are those that teach me with the way they live their lives, the way they treat people, and the way they treat me. Not by what they say, or what they believe, but by what they do. This is why I relate to the Miller story so intricately. This is what I mean by saying a relationship with God can’t truly be explained, only experienced; but if you intend on letting others know the experience you are having, why not let them observe the experience by the way we live our lives? Who wouldn’t want that experience themselves?

And on a side, personal note – today I have eaten 4 rice crispie treats, some cheese and crackers, 2 chocolate covered pretzels (jumbo pretzels), a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie, probably about 10 mini powder sugar covered chocolate chip cookies, and some sort of vanilla flavored crème cookie sandwich.

Oh yea, plus bacon, English muffins(2) and eggs for breakfast, 3 giant meatballs for lunch, and scalloped potatoes, green pea casserole, and ham for dinner. And 2 miller lites. It was a good day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Who the Hell am I?

I think about this ALL the time. Here I am, trying my best to live a Godly life, and am doing MUCH better at it now than I used to, that's a fact - although I do tend to suck at it quite often still. But I began remembering certain situations in my life when I would knowingly sin...which is obviously something that has to be addressed. You know when you're mad, because something didn't work out, some girl (or guy - NOT in my case despite what my friends might say) doesn't like you anymore, or your money situation is bad. I know I used to feel that all the time, and I basically found myself sinning (usually through the "beverages") just because I thought it was okay because I thought I was getting screwed in some other part of life.

Then I found myself saying "well, If I just had this one thing...then I could live a Godly life, but I really need this." Or, when thinking about the future I'd sometimes say, in fact I said this one ALL the time..."If I can just get to marriage...when I meet the woman I'm going to marry, then I'll settle down and start living the good Christian life I'm supposed to live, but for now, I'm gonna (in the words for the artist formerly known as prince) party like it's 1999, and worry about all that Bible stuff down the road!" EVERYBODY i think says that at some point. I mean, it's not hard to live a Christian life when you're married right? There's no need to lust, or drink, or be angry at the world...because God has provided you with a woman that adores you, and that you adore.

Who the hell am I? Seriously. I'm going to say it again, purposely saying it the way I am.

Who the hell am I?

I'm basically giving God an ultamatem. What was I thinking?? I don't deserve anything that I am given: my life, my love for food, my amazing friends. NOTHING. It is only by the Grace of God that I am alive, and only by the grace of God that I am given a second chance. Genesis 28:15 says:

"I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

What more do I need. Do I really think God won't come through on the promises he has made to me? Yet there I was, basically telling Him that I needed to have proof that he existed...and that he hadn't given me enough, basically that I knew what was best for me.

Who the Hell was I to ask for that?

Thanks Lord for giving me an understanding heart, and enabling me to see what a freakin' idiot I can be sometimes.

1 Cor. 2:11 -

"For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."

I'm not the spirit of God...and I tried to know the thoughts of God through my own mind. We must pray...constantly pray...through the Holy Spirit that dwells inside of us if we wish to know God's Will for our lives. Come on God, Just TELL us!! Give us that memo - I don't want to be the guy from Office space - I mean, when I do something stupid, how often do I hear God say something equivalent to the timeless quote - "Did ya get that memo?" NO! I NEVER GET THE MEMO!! That was a joke...

I think you have my stapler?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Notebook

Being a fan of all chickflicks, I thought I would write about the gossip I read. Yes, it's about "The Notebook." I think Rachel McAdams is GORGEOUS, and her and Ryan Gosling, the "guy" from the movie might be getting engaged. Oh well...But come on, I might be a romantic freak but you know you'd love to kiss a girl in the rain like this...

It's the classic know...guy meets girl, falls in love with girl, goes to war, girls mother hides letters, girl meets perfect guy, gets engaged, comes back to other guy, 'loves' him again, breaks up with new guy, they get married, have a family, she gets amnesia, gets put in a care center, guy stays with her, tells her the story ever day, guy sneaks off to girls room at night, they die together in bed..... I've seen it a hundred times....

I think i may write bad romance novels when I'm older...I kinda love this sappy crap. The picture of Rocky at the bottom is to bring out some masculinity, because I love rocky. Watching guys beat the crap out of each other is awesome...and Football of course.

The truth is, we all somewhere, deep down, want to have a love like this. Will we ever get it? Maybe, Maybe not, that's not for us to decide. All I know is whoever I end up with will definitely be getting it

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Home for Christmas?

I had a great weekend this past weekend, my brother was in town so it was good to hang out with him, and we went to the Bears/Steelers "Blizzardfest" Sunday and watched our team lose for the 2nd time this year in person (they've only lost four). We are a jinx.

So last week I was talking to my mom about coming home for Christmas, which I had every intention of doing, and I had already made arrangements at work for time off. She calls me and says "Uh, do you think you could come in January instead of Christmas?" I then reacted "Uh, yea, I guess" - but come on! What the heck was that all about?? Her reasoning was that my brother couldn't come til Jan., my grandma would be able to come then as well, they would be moving into a new house in late December, and she would be able to take a whole weekend off.

A bit uneasy...that night I began making calls and arrangements to get the heck out of dodge for xmas. I'll be leaving on a jet plane. After weighing my options, I said screw it, dropped $260 on 2 one-way tickets, and made my decision. I'm flying into Atlanta, GA - my friend Adam(This is us at Ryan Kelley's wedding - we were the best men) is picking me up at the airport and I'm spending Christmas with him and his family in Tennessee. We are gonna go skiing and just hang out I guess...if I don't die we'll go to the University of Georgia in Athens, GA, for a night or two, then down to Orlando, FL for the New Year with my brother....while it may not be warm enough to swim...I'll definitely be getting some sun on the beach. I need a good tan(ha!). Then I'll fly out of Jacksonville on New Years Day. If you know me, you will know that this isn't out of the ordinary for me at all...In fact, this will be the third time I've seen FL since Spring, the fourth time I've seen GA since last fall, and the second time I've seen TN since the summer. Regardless, I am excited...The dirty south always seems to be good to the Seal.

Other than that, just getting through the work week. We have a Pittsburgh Fellows Xmas party on Thursday night, then class on Friday.
A part of me wishes I was heading home to Kansas for the wheat fields and Lightning storms, but I for some reason felt God telling me to wait- I am planning on making it out there sometime soon anyways, and Adam is in the Air Force, so this was the time for me to head south...yet again.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Why I get up in the Morning

I can remember a time in my life where I would wake up and say to myself "oh geez...what am I going to do today..." in high school, or in college it would be "Yes! It's 3 pm and I just woke up, and I have nothing I have to do today!" Even if I had 2 finals the next day. And there is the ever-so popular "I wish I could just go back to bed and not have to go anywhere today." I have to admit this still comes around in my mind every once in a while. But being a Christian gives us a new reason to get up every morning - to serve God. I can't think of anything more exciting. Dallas Willard (Renovation of the Heart) suggests saying a prayer every morning to the likes of "Lord, please prepare me to serve your kingdom today." If we approach every day like this, we will always have something to do everyday, and if we are passionate about it, we will always want to get up in the morning. It's all about the here and now. Today we have the option: we can ignore what God is doing and go about our lives, or we can embrace the challenge that He has put before us, each and every day:

What can you going to do for My Kingdom today??

I was watching a movie last night with my brother titled "Control." One line in the movie gripped me, it was comedic, but at the same time simple and intelligent. The line was said by Michelle Rodriguez to Ray Liotta:

"If you keep one eye on the past, and one eye on the future, you'll end up cross-eyed."

Of course, every time I say the line I actually do this, and my eyes get crossed, and I laugh at what a ridiculous person I can be =). After dinner we played charades at Dr. Peter Moore's house on Friday, and Barbara (One of the Pittsburgh Fellows - this pic's from Beccas house, as you can see, I am very happy to be eating[I'm in the orange]) called me the most "random person she has ever met" - and after realizing that I have crossed my eyes about 10 times since yesterday, I'd have to agree.

But the quote is good, especially when thinking about the relevance of living today for God. When thinking about the past, and the signifcance of it, 1 verse always come to heart:

Is. 43:18-19

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!"

Does this mean to complete "Forget" the past? No...but remember, if our ultimate goal is to be Christ-like, what does Christ do? He doesn't look at us for our past, he looks at us for our "here and now." He wants to know what we are going to do today for him - he does not Judge, therefore we do not judge others, and should not judge ourselves. Repent, our sins will be forgiven, and we should forget them. I'll write a little more on my next post on this.

As far as the future is concerned, it is much simpler - by putting our faith and our trust in God, we are letting Him know that our future is in His hands, and whichever paths he takes us down is exciting. This is why every morning when I wake up, I get excited - think about the AMAZING things God can and will do for us every day if we let Him. THAT is what is great about getting up every morning, and for that I'm thankful.

So every morning when you get up from sleeping like this little guy here, look at the day as an opportunity to matter what is going on in your life. And if it isn't clear, ask "What can be done today - what needs to be done today," and you'll figure out what it is, or better yet, you'll discover what it is.

"Throw it away"

Read the post above this if you haven't yet(and care to)...this sort of builds on it.

I remember once reading an analogy of sin and repentence. God doesn't want us to "feel bad" about sin, he wants us to not sin. He made the analogy that every time we sin, the sin is written on a piece of paper and put in our back pocket. We will be judged for these sins, if we do not confess them. By confessing them, we are taking them out of our pocket and giving them to God. What does God do with these? He takes them, crumples them up, and throws them trash can in the corner of the room - I even like to think that Jesus is actually the one who does this and the Father doesn't even see these "pieces of paper,"(Although I do believe God is an "all-seeing God, and all though He may see sin, He does not see sin in us) because of the verse I quoted a few days ago that says (Col. 3:3):

"For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

When we confess, sin is GONE because of what Jesus did for us. God doesn't see us for the past (bad), he sees us for the present and the future(hopefully good!). The paper is thrown away, because Jesus is basically saying "That's my boy, now don't do it again" and erases it from His mind. He doesn't document it, he doesn't file it away to bring up later (which we often do with things) - he throws them away, and we should pray for our minds to do the same thing

We should never hold grudges and try to truly forgive things that have been done to us, and love people - this concept of love is something I'm ALWAYS learning more about and love to read about...I could talk for hours on the subject.

And remember...Jesus doesn't want us to be upset or regretful - he wants us to die to ourselves - and in order to do us, we must forgive ourselves for our past mistakes - if we can't forgive ourselves - why should God? and how can we forgive others?

So you screwed up; so what - guess what, you're probably gonna do it again. So crumple up that paper, and throw it away in the wastebasket; because God does - but this isn't an excuse to continue to fill up that wastebasket...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Why do bad things happen to Good People?

This is sort of a build-on to my last post. The man I wrote about in 1 Kings, the one who had a spiritual experience of a lifetime in Judah and had prophesized the destroying of the shrine in Bethel that takes place in 2 Kings 23:16-18. After pleasing and obeying the Lord, the man from Judah set out. a man who's kids had returned and spoke of the man set out to find this man. Remember now, this man from Judah was known as "the man of God," and was a truly holy person. He was obeying the Lord under the promise that if he obeyed God he would be able to be buried with tomb of his fathers.

WHen the children's father(who was a prophet) found the man from Judah, he offered to take him back to his place for food and drink. (1 Kings 13:15-19)

"So the prophet said to him, "Come home with me and eat."
16 The man of God said, "I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. 17 I have been told by the word of the LORD : 'You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.' "
18 The old prophet answered, "I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD : 'Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.' " (But he was lying to him.) 19 So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank in his house.."

What did this man do wrong? He disobeyed the Lord's word, yes, but he thought he was disobeying him FOR the word of the Lord through this prophet. Eventually, the chapter ends by this man being killed shortly thereafter by a Lion(this pic's from the Lion King..Best disney movie EVER), and his body not being buried in the tomb of his fathers. This was a good man, who had seemingly committed one disobedience...and yet was punished with his death. This goes to show that we should listen to the Lord obviously...but let's look at the timeless question of


The fact is, after the fall, we all inherited Adam's sin. All human Kind (with the ONE exception of Christ) were born into sin. What does it mean to be born into sin? It means that we deserve to die. Yes. As human beings, right now, we all deserve to be cast into hell and burn for eternity. It sounds harsh and alot of people don't like to admit it, but if this weren't true, why would we need forgiveness? So when things such as hurricanes, disease, tsunamis, etc. kill thousands and thousands of innocent people, its not necessarily because they did anything bad. There are lots of reasons. First of all, it gives God an opportunity to do work. He gets to work through people in relief members find themselves quesitioning things, and engaging in dialogue with Him. But why death? Why not temporary illness?

The reasons I may not know, but I look at situations like Hurricane Katrina, or Tornadoes (Kansas reference), or the Tsunami, as a reminder of how precious our time on Earth is, and also as a constant reminder that I deserve to die, and need to live every minute of my life in the way the Lord intended for me to do it. The fact is, none of us are born "good," but God sees our extraordinary potential, only because of Jesus. It is only through Jesus Christ that we are made this way..and we are still not essentially "good," as the passage in Colossians 3 shows us:

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. "

Our life is hidden in Christ - our "evil" nature is hidden, and it is this way that God sees us that I like to perceive ALL human beings with an enormous amount of potential, that can only be released through salvation.

Bad things will always continue to happen to good people. Is this the direct result of God's hand? Probably not - the fact remains that evil does exist in this world. But we are better off spending less time worrying about the bad times, and should start worrying and focusing on the good things we can accomplish now, and the things God wants us to accomplish now. THAT is our purpose.

Monday, December 05, 2005

"Does it really matter?"

I was just reminded about a story my brother(this is us at a George Strait concert in Indianapolis in February) had told me. One(of the many) time we went out and he went up to a girl and started talking to her. He had probably been talking to her for about 20 minutes, and she then looked up at him and said "You don't even know my name do you?" My brother, who is never afraid to be up front, looked at her and said:

"Does it really matter?"

I almost peed myself laughing so hard. I still do every time I picture him saying it. How hilarious is that? But there is some relevance...

I've been reading through 1 Kings, and if you aren't familiar with the Story, it is begins with God's covenant to David, for his Kingdom to prosper. David dies, and Solomon, who "was wiser than any other man" (1 Kings 4:31) assumes the throne. After some time, Solomon breaks the covenant w/ God by worshiping other Gods. God STILL keeps his covenant with David, his servant by leaving his son w/ one kingdom, but punishes Solomon by his enemies defeating him and taking the rest of his lands. The main lesson is God's promises, and how we will always keep them no matter what.

In Chapter 12 and 13, we see another theme arise...mainly being to follow what we know God to be clearly showing us. at the beginning of Chpt. 13 we see this:

The king said to the man of God, "Come home with me and have something to eat, and I will give you a gift."
8 But the man of God answered the king, "Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. 9 For I was commanded by the word of the LORD : 'You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.' " 10 So he took another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel.

The King gave the man an offer, and the man did not even think twice about it...which leads me to believe that he was conditioned in the way I wrote about yesterday I would like to be. He immediately obeyed God. The key is to always obey God anytime we clearly hear Him tell us something without questioning Him. Our Gifts/Rewards are so much greater then what the King or anyone else could promise. Here's what made me think of all of this...

Yesterday at church i felt a call at our youth service to put a decent amount of money in the collection plate, which was going to a woman who works her tail off for the youth group's daughter to help pay for a missions trip to the gulf coast. The plate had already passed, and i didnt want to get up in front of everybody, so I waited until the end. I had never felt that sort of need to do so before. I found myself asking God, not being opposed to the idea or anything, just curious, why He wanted me to do this now instead of last week, or next week.

I couldn't help from laughing out loud (LOL) when I heard God's response...

"Does it really matter?"

So next time you feel God telling you to do something, just do it! Because if you know it is Him telling you to do it, and you are wondering why, come on now...ask yourself:

"Does it really matter?"

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Dallas Willard And Techno Line Dancing

We are doing a series right now by Dallas Willard called "Renovation of the heart." We are about 6 weeks in, but last week we had a few excercises we were supposed to do. One was to notice when we were feeling particular emotions such as love, joy, and peace, and to notice what was going on in our social interactions, thoughts, and behavior to bring about these emotions.

Think about it - what makes you happy? The answer to this question is going to be something right? I'm happy when I win a soccer game, when the bears win (Which they have been doing alot!!) or when I have a nice conversation with another person. But am I joyful as a result of this? No...Happiness is temporary, joy is long-lasting. I get joy from worshipping God...yes...but the key, according to Willard, is to ask God to condition us to be the type of person who naturally experiences these positive emotions and who naturally things, wills, behaves, and interacts in ways that produce them.

THERE IT IS. Conditioning!

It sounds so simple but is complicated. I think about the times I try to be Christ-like..and I stop myself right there. I already pointed out the issue at hand: I try to be Christlike. We aren't meant to try to be Christ-like, we're supposed to be it! Christ-likeness Isn't the same as bein IS possible. And in order to BE Christ-like, we have to condition ourselves to be so. This means that is 30 minutes of prayer before we eat anything, or 20 minutes in the Word before we leave our room in the morning, or spending a certain amount of money every day on something that we get no benefit from but others do. Things such as this, done often enough, will become a part of our everyday routines. We will learn to become christlike instead of trying to become Christ-like.

Im tired, because last night we went out. My friends Steph and Caryn (thank ya'll by the ways =)) were teaching me line dances. I went into the techno room and was doing them, all by myself in the dance floor, because it was still early and not many people were there. So there I am, the DD, line dancing to Techno music, when 3 girls i know that i hadnt seen in a while walk in...I'd love to know what was going through their minds...It was a fun time. Around 12 i found myself sitting on the leather couch in the "salsa" room half asleep, only to discover naked women on a black and white TV screen behind the was surreal. I closed my eyes and tried not to let my virgin eyes be corrupted. Okay, maybe i just looked the other way.

The snow was nice...but not driving home last night! But we made it safe. MONDAYS STINK! Everybody have a good week

And yes, I was "that guy" line dancing at Youth Group at church this morning, and trying to teach the kids how to do it...

My Flesh is a weak

This morning in the youth service we were singing a song...and the words caught my attention. You know how when you are in church sometimes you sing a song that you know, but suddenly the words grab your heart and catch your attention. This is what caught me, ths song is popular, called "Light the Fire":

"I stand to praise You,
But I fall on my knees,
My spirit is willing,
But my flesh is so weak."

And there it is. It's amazing when I look back at the past few years of my life. I can recall NO or very few times in my life where I don't think my spirit has been willing. In fact, I even thing that ALL people have willing spirits. So many times in my life I have seen a willing soul of mine, wanting to do the right things, knowing what they are, fall short...My spirit, which is guided by the Holy Spirit, is always going to give me the will to behave Christ-like. The theme of John 15 is:

"The Spirit-filled life is the Christ-directed life by which Christ lives His life in and through us in the power of the Holy Spirit."

Therefore, when we sin, it is not the result of a willing spirit...

But my flesh is so weak.

Lord, please strengthen my flesh to act in the way my spirit does as a result of your grace through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Condition me to act more CHristlike, and help me learn to listen to my spirit (your spirit) and not my flesh. My flesh is fallible; Your spirit is not.

I will write more about spirtiual conditioning. Last thursday at our roundtable we discussed the difference between doing the will of God consciously and unconsciously, and the importance of tranining to do things naturally.

NOW....I must go watch the Bears play. The Steelers are playing for their seasons, and its snowing! It's beautiful. Hope everybody has a blessed day. I feel soft...I'm gonna go get some steak, spit, untuck my shirt, not comb my hair, not shave. Why? That's how I roll!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Pascal's Wager - Pragmatism

In between classes today we went to the Olive Garden - GREAT stuff. After being switched tables for no reason, and having some leftovers thrown away, Aaron and Barbara (two of the fellows) found themselves with $10 giftcards. It was a nice afternoon!

SO...Today in apologetics class we were studying Pragmatism. What is pragmatism? The easiest way I can explain it is the following quote from William James: "Ideas are never useful because they are true. They are true because they are useful." What this is basically implying is that Pragmatics tend to only base opinions based on reason, and consider truth to be anything that can be perceived as useful. They do not believe in absolute truth (But by saying that there are absolutely no absolute truths, aren't you contradicting yourself? YES!! That's the point). Anyways, the author goes on to discuss Christians..And brings up a very good point that a lot of us miss I think sometimes.

I think back to when I actually became a Christian. I'm not going to tell my entire testimony, but if anybody ever wants to hear about it let me know; I love talking about any of this - it's my favorite thing to do - but writing it can sometimes be pointless if you know what I mean(Hard to emphasize things). But basically, Let us ask ourselves the question - Not "Why am I a Christian, " which would be a different answer, but "Why did I become a Christian?" My answer was very pragmatic: and I don't think I'm alone. I was at a place in my life where things were going good - I was beginning to ask the hard questions, and began shaping my worldview. I had been raised a Muslim - Yes, crazy - but had no real religion in my life...And everything was great, I loved living, I was just trying to make sense of everything.

I became a Christian not because I believed the gospels are true, but because they are workable." They helped me make sense of my life. I didn't look into them, I looked at the surface of them. I used my logic to give myself an explanation of why I was living, and what my purposes were here on Earth. That worked for about six months, maybe a little longer. Then it all stayed the same...I hit a plateau early in my faith and never grasped it again - I read a lot, I learned, I went to church, I prayed...I sinned...But that isn't what being a Christian is mainly about. I took the ideas of the gospel and made them useful for me. I didn't see anything as right and wrong - I was forgiven. I read the point in Dr. Peter Moore's book (Ironically our teacher) titled Disarming the Secular Gods that said even false ideas can be useful. Look at Abortion. People will make the argument (Intelligent people even) that abortion is acceptable because it is the best interest of the child. I was doing the same thing!

Exodus 14:10 - 13 discusses Moses leading the Egyptians to the red sea:

"As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. 11 They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" 13 Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again."

This helps us understand pragmatism a little better. Now put yourself in the shoes of the Egyptians - What would you do? They ask in verse 12 to be left alone to serve, but they have trusted Moses, and he has led them to a dead end. They have 2 choices - Stay, and probably die - or go back, and be enslaved again. Pragmatically, based on previous experience, they, and you, would probably go back. Then something happens - the red sea parts. Now what? And Moses expects you to walk through . I know what the FIRST think I'd do. I'd march my butt right up to Moses and say "Moses..Hey buddy, come here for a sec. Look, I know you saw a burning bush and all that jazz, but come on bud, let's talk rationally for a second. You want me, to walk through an ocean, with mile-high walls of water on both sides of me. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?" Pragmatically my experiences are telling me that this is probably a 50/50 chance or so of my death. That was my mistake. See the point I'm getting at? When I became a Christian, I did it because it made sense, not because I had complete faith in Christ. We have to get past that, and realize that we have to have a leap of faith...To COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY trust God...And by questioning him, we aren't trusting him.

This got us into a discussion on "Pascal's Wager" - something many of you may be familiar with, maybe not. Basically this is the argument that we are all faced with a bet in life (very GENERAL, not specifically for Christianity) - Is there a God, or isn't there a God? Pascal's conclusion is that it is foolish to bet that there isn't a God, and that the only logical choice is to bet that there is a God. If you bet on God, you have everything to gain, and nothing to lose. If you bet that there isn't a God, you have nothing to gain, and nothing to lose. It's like poker - are you gonna sit at a poker table and play to win, or are you going to fold any hand, and not even give yourself a chance to win. Pascal(crazy guy in the picture - hey, he's kind of cute right?) and Peter Moore (teacher) came to the same conclusion:

1 - If I bet on God and you don't and you're right, I'm a fold.
2 - If I'm right, where does that leave you?

This is not to say this is the way Christians should think at all. THIS is why I became a Christian. "Why not?" I couldn't answer this question, so I gave my life to Christ. It wasn't until MUCH later that I realized and felt his presence in my life. HOWEVER I do believe this is a very valuable evangelistic tool...I never would have put my fot in the door if I didn't hear this first. This opened the door for me. I feel it is scripturally accurate to equip ourselves to be able to handle these situations in a support for our faith...Then we can take it to the next step.

I could write on and on...I am using this as a way of organizing random thoughts, so It is very helpful to me. If anybody actually READ this far...And you have any comments I'd love to hear from you...As I said this before, this is really my new favorite thing to talk about...Learning from others is such a valuable tool.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Waiting and Patience...a silent soul

Well Well Well

I know I have gained weight, as many do this time of year, and plan on gaining much more in the next month. Next week is the big Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears matchup - I will of course be at the game in the lower levels with my brother, wearing my Chicago Bears jersey, trying to restrain him (who can be very vocal) from saying too much and try to make it out of there alive!

Every day when I drive to work in Cranberry (About a 20 minute drive from Sewickley, where we live) I listen to Dr. Charles Stanley's "In Touch" - You may know the jingle ("in the morning light, it darkest night...He is there, and will always be there for you....") Yes? well, anyways...

Dr. Stanley, with his southern accent of course, was talking about Patience in the Lord, a concept that we hear over and over again. Obviously we have to be patient in listening, asking, wanting, what God wants for us. Often in our lives we find our selves wanting things, and Much of this time God wants the same thing for us...But where there is a discrepency is the "when." God will bring us things we want if we trust in Him and Him alone, but not necessarily when we want them, which is where trusting and waiting come into play. These two things cannot be separated...I will come back to this in a minute.

Dr. Stanley referred to Psalm 62:1(NKJ): "Truly my soul silently waits for God;From Him comes my salvation." The key word here I have italicized...


What does it mean for our soul to wait silently? It's not that complicated. How many times in our lives to we find ourselves praying about the same things night and day for an extended period of time? What is our soul saying in between these times? I know for me these are the times in my life in which I become frustrated with God (impatient!) and find my soul whining and crying like a 9 year-old who's older brother had just taken away his pack of Gushers [Which I'm sure my brother did all the time =)].

"Truly my soul waits silently for God..."

David, God's loyal servant, said it right. Who am I to complain? This precisely means that I am not FULLY trusting in the Lord...I am asking Why not now? When? The Lord looks after my best interests, and when waiting for Him to answer prayers or to open doors for me my soul must do what David writes here...wait silently. Basically, this means God is saying to me "SHUT YOUR STUPID MOUTH, I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING!!" You know what God, as usual, you are right my friend.

In looking at other versions, I see similar translations: (Message) "God, the one and only--I'll wait as long as he says. Everything I need comes from him, so why not?" Isn't that what I just said? Exactly - WHY NOT??

NIV - "My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from him." This leads me to the same conclusion - WHY NOT?? My soul will only find rest in God alone.

Now I come back to the statement I made earlier, to waiting and trusting not being separated. We will never learn to trust until we learn to wait...and by learning to wait, we will learn how to trust. It's so simple.

Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding"
That famous passage from Mark 12:20 telling us to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, mind, and strength is about Love...but how can we love something we don't trust? TRUST MUST COME FIRST, and this comes only through learning how to wait.

We (the pittsburgh fellows) have our roundtable tonight - we are doing a series by Dallas Willard entitled "Renovation of the Heart" - its a spiritual formation class. I am very excited about it, it's been going very well.

I'm always excited about the weekend. This weekend my tentative plans are to go down to the strip on Saturday morning (If you're in Pittsburgh and have never been down there you have to go, its amazing) with a friend, then that's about it as far as concrete plans. Hope everybody had a great thanksgiving. These pictures are of the wonderful city of the 'burgh facing point state park, and of the Strip.

- Seal, out


Well Well well(I say this all the time), being a member of the Pittsburgh Fellows and learning all about this blog stuff, I thought Neil the Seal could use his own God has given me one! I love hearing from anybody and if you are one of the single-digit people that read this, feel free to start a dialogue with me about anything.

And, as you can see, I enjoy to smile. Have a blessed day. And, as you can see by the "Cold Beer" over my left shoulder and the down arrow...I'm not a sheltered human being!(complete cooincidence, I did not plan that)