Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mirrored Reality

      We have two mirrors in the  restroom downstairs. One is a normal mirror and the other, an antique mirror that is slightly tinted with a gentle pinkish tan shade. It's slight, however; hardly noticeable unless you compare the two side-by-side.

     When looking at myself in the mirror, washing my face, or putting on makeup, the temptation is to look into the one that is tinted. It's right in front of me. It's a charming mirror. Not to mention, I feel better about myself this way. My face is less marred and even a bit tan. It's nice... But it isn't authentic. For a true depiction of my skin tone and facial state, I must look in our other mirror, sitting quietly to it's right. But that mirror tells all. That mirror doesn't hide my flaws. That mirror is the mirror of reality.

     In life, we are given two mirrors. The first mirror arrogantly stands in front of us as our default. It makes us feel good about ourselves. It makes us feel indifferent and justified. This mirror is the mirror of the world. Facing myself through a glass wall that is tinted with egotism, complacency, bitterness, conformity, and self-gratification, I feel pretty good. With all of this to compare as a marred reality, I know that I am winsome and ethical in the sight of the society of this world and every glorified idol to which it's devotion lies.

     The second mirror stands for absolute truth. It doesn't hide my flaws. In fact, as I look at my barren reflection, I see not only the defects I was aware of, but many others that would have, were it not for the honest image staring back at me, remained in happy oblivion.

     Sin is a bitter reality we don't like to face. It's easier to ignore it, look away, put off the inevitable, pretend it doesn't exist. What happens then? Nothing at first. No spiritual growth, no innovation, no joy. Nothing to show for a life that should be a plethora of wisdom and vision, hope and tenacity. Then... the changes happen. Sin doesn't just sit in one place in our heart and mind. It is constantly moving, constantly working. Not just satisfied to infect our life, it's passion is to destruct our soul.

     We stare into one mirror and see a veiled existence that feeds a lie. This is when destruction comes because we don't know the sin is even there, to deal with it. When we look into the mirror of truth, the infallible word of God, it's not always easy to face. The true reality? We are full of disgusting, ugly sin. However, God's word not only brings us face to face with truth, but provides us with a way of escape. It grants us cleansing that comes only through Christ's blood, which washes away all impurities, creating an image that reflects God's unfathomable glory.

     When you look into a mirror that is tinted by the world, you give yourself to be bound by its chains, through sins you never knew existed because you chose not to see them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Here...And Gone...

     Time is a puzzling thing. Often, life flies by so fast I feel I can hardly keep up. Things that took place a while ago seems to have happened yesterday. But then, I look back at events in the past few years of my life that feel an eternity away.
     These thoughts were running through my mind this past Saturday as I stood a few feet away from the bonfire, laughter, and chatter at Family Camp, in Prescott AZ. I turned to look into the dark woods to my right, suddenly realizing that this was the last place I had spoken to my Mom. One year ago, only a week early to the day, I had talked to her on the phone and told her "I love you" for the very last time. It was a strange realization. I remember thinking I could almost believe she wasn't sick, as I heard her cheerful voice on the other end.

      Time is something we may never understand. I remembered this bonfire taking place a year ago and it felt like it happened only weeks prior. Yet as I remember the terrible battle Mom faced with her cancer, it seems years and years away.
     I'm so thankful we serve a God who stands outside of time as the Creator of time. He is the great "I Am". As we were entering the first of Mom's diagnosis, He was waiting at the end. As we were in the middle of the hardship, our God had already seen us through.
     Unbound by time, Jehovah Jireh, our Provider WILL see us through because He has ALREADY seen us through. And I think few things in this world could ever bring more comfort.
     This day comes with much love to my Mom, as on her birthday, she resides in the place where tears are wiped away, sin is forever defeated, and where she may joyfully praise her Savior, directly in His glorious and most holy presence. It sure doesn't get better than that. ‪#‎Hoppman2015‬ 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Defective Faith

"...So they took up Jonah and cast him forth into the sea; and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows." (Jonah 1:15-16)

     The above verses are not a story about men who were heathens, saw the mighty power of God, and repented of their sins. This is an example of men who had a fear of God, and probably nothing more. This was a fear that made them weak-kneed, a fear that caused them to recollect their sins and faults, a fear that brought them to reverence before a powerful God. At least, this is what we may take from the little given about them in this passage. This fear, however, was a skittish reverence, rather than sorrowful repentance.

     The Bible says that at the name of God, even the demons fear and tremble. (James 2:19) They know He exists. This is already established. Yet they, along with Satan, have rejected God, and they will continue to do so for eternity. So the question then remains for our own hearts and lives: is there repentance from sin, and a life turned away from wickedness? Is there a rejection of the "Old man"? Has that fear birthed only reverence... or repentance? Do our action represent our fear: "I may be destroyed" or do they proclaim: "I have been redeemed."?

     Dependent on the answer are two very different outcomes.

   "...They will know us by our fruits..." (Matt. 7:16-20)  We can be recognized as saved through our deeds but it is not by these deeds that were are saved. Do you see the difference?

     If you are saved, yet constantly fear punishment and rejection for your sin, you are living under a condemnation that has been conquered at Calvary. Yet the sinner lives his life shackled and immovable by this eternity. It is a darkness that reeks of self-focused pity and hatred. It crushes him with the weight of unattainable piety. God did not call us to this. For what reason would you live this way as a Christian? If you have asked Christ into your heart and repented of your past life, there should be no condemnation or fear. You have been saved by the blood of the lamb, Jesus Christ, and He has freed you from these bonds. Otherwise your life becomes focused on good works and accomplishments. What you do or don't do becomes the basis for the salvation of others, and for yourself. This is a dangerous path.

     So what is the other side of this? Yes, we have sinned. Yes, we will make (Many) mistakes. The difference is, we live with the knowledge that despite our sins, we are not pushed away from God eternally. When we sin, we must repent, strive to do better, and remain in communion with God, knowing fully that our salvation is not determined by our actions. "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (1 Peter 1:13)

     The focus is not on self, but instead, God. Rather than looking to my actions and my words, I look to Christ, and His word, and how He will work through me. Does that make sense?

     With this knowledge, we will rejoice in our awesome God! We can live in freedom from the bondage of sin, and in utter devotion as a bond-servant of Christ.

     When you have been redeemed, you will desire to serve the One by whom you have been saved. You will strive to please and honor Him with everything in your being. You will be utterly sorrowful when you are brought to the knowledge of your sin, and will be quickly brought to repentance and restoration with Him.

     When the men on the ship bound for Tarshish threw Jonah into the tumultuous waves, they witnessed a miracle. The other god's they worshiped had never done anything like this! So out of fear, they made sacrifices to God. This was a God unlike the others. This was a God who they believed to be feared. However, that doesn't mean they changed their ways or stopped serving their false gods. They were still bound by a works based faith in many things, and in self. It was a defective faith.

     People will know you are saved because of your fruits. They will see an unwavering, steadfast joy as you serve God, the One who saved you from sin, saved you from condemnation, and saved you from an eternity without Him. This is how you are to live, so that you will have absolutely no fear when the time comes for you to die.

    Remember: "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble..." 

   Don't live in condemnation under a defective faith.

     Acts 3:18-19- "... But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;"    


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jesus Idols

     The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.  He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers:... The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger?"
     Interesting. This passage of scripture in Nahum not only speaks of our Lord as One who is slow to anger... But also great in power with the ability to cause chaos in nature. We don't often put the two together. We like to separate the qualities of directed strength vs gentle kindness because we don't think they meld quite right. Slow to anger rich in mercy... Yet seemingly full of wrath and Hell fire... And the two go together? I think we need to be careful with how we separate these truths. Whether it's just a thought we don't conceive, or an action we take in conversation, this subtle change we slap to the attributes of our Lord is a slippery slope.  We need to watch out.
 "  ...His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.  The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies."
      So often I think we like to "Use" Jesus in a way that fits our particular issues or desires. We try to fit Him in an easy-to-understand mold. For example, we sometimes like to use our "Meek and Mild" Jesus. He is gentle, soft, and does not raise His voice or challenge much, if anything.  This is the Jesus we find in children's story books and at Sunday school. 
     We often like to pull out our "Judgement Jesus".  Anybody who gives us grief or are sinning, in our eyes, meet this Jesus. We like to pull this one out when we have to let folks know what's coming if they don't "Turn from their wicked ways".  
      And we can't forget the "Love and Peace Jesus" either. This one is probably most common.  This Jesus, of course, loves everybody. This Jesus accepts everybody and everything while ignoring your guilt and reminding you just how special you are, just the way you are; "Simply love and accept others and yourself".  
     Anyway, there are others, but I think you get the idea. The Bible warns us against false idols... Do you suppose we set up for ourselves idols when we keep trying to worship a Jesus of our choosing? Should we not be applying the warning against worship  of false gods, when we pull out certain things from Scripture about our Savior,  and discard the rest?
     Christ's attributes work together beautifully. Our God is not weak and yielding, nor is He abounding in anger and wrath towards his children.  Instead of trying to use our Savior's various qualities to our advantage, why don't we give Him credit as the One our Scripture portrays; the whole picture given to us through His word; the God who cannot be contained?  Why is it we refuse to accept  scripture as a whole, and instead pick out bits and pieces?  
      Our Lord is mighty yet gentle; wholly just yet loving; completely righteous yet forgiving. He is Three and yet One; here with us now, yet unbound by the confines of time; the great "I Am".  He is simple enough that a child may understand and trust Him... yet so grand and complex that our minds could never fathom His limitless and unbound power and greatness.  
     We must not let ourselves "See" Christ for who we want Him to be... Let's see Him for who He is, then step forward and be forever amazed by His greatness.  

*Scripture taken from Nahum 1:3-4b and 5-8 KJV

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Curse Removed

         "Thou sayest thy sin is little; then, if the sin be little, how little trouble it might have taken thee to have avoided it! If thy transgression be but small, at how small an expense thou mightest have refrained from it! Some have said, 'Surely the sin of Adam was but little; he did but take an apple.'  Ay, but in its littleness was its greatness. If it was a little thing to take the fruit, with how little trouble might it have been avoided! And because it was so small an act, there was couched within it the greater malignity of guilt. So, too, thou mayest never have blasphemed thy God, thou mayest never have desecrated his Sabbath; yet, insomuch as thou hast committed a little sin, thou art justly condemned, for a little sin hath in it the essence of all sin; and I know not but that what we call little sins may be greater in God's sight than those which the world universally condemns, and against which the hiss of the execration of humanity continually rises. I say, God is just, although from his lips should rush thunders to blast the entire universe; God is just, although he curses all. Tremble, man, and 'kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish by the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.' The curse is universal, the curse is just." Wow. Great words from Charles Spurgeon in his sermon: "The Curse Removed".

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Double Take

    2014 has been a hard year; there's no denying it. Looking back at previous years would be enjoyable, predictable, and perhaps a little nostalgic. I like to look back and reminisce. I appreciate seeing how God has shaped me through various hardships and experiences. Taking a typical "look back" at the year, across the years, has provided ample opportunity for such. However, this year has held more of the "Hardship" and "Experiences" than I, or probably anyone else, expected. Looking back proves to be sometimes difficult. The memories are not all happy ones... But how could anyone have known what was to come?    

  So my siblings and I will be entering this year without our sweet Mom. She was such a large part of our household; it's difficult and strange. It's such a bitter truth. but one that many face everyday. It's not particular to I or my family, it just feels that way as we go through it. 

   Of course, I'm not writing about this to  make you feel sad or discouraged. The sin nature is ever-present and death is just a harsh truth we will have to face throughout our lives. Yeah its tough, but it's reality. I'm writing about this because I would like to take another look back. I want you to see God and what He has done and can do in the lives of His children. When you look at something, the "first glance" is often perverted. The first conclusion is often flawed. Sometimes, it requires a double take to see things as they really are... 

    So here are some things I have noticed as we go through this. As Anton Ego from Ratatouille would say, "A little perspective"...  

    First, it has definitely drawn me closer to God. A relationship with God is something that must be maintained. You have to work at it. I'm thankful for the hard times because it has forced me to realize, once again, how needy and incapable I am in my own strength. It reminded me just how much I needed to trust in my Savior, no matter what.
    I've also noticed the body of Christ moving in an amazing way. When we needed help, they came around us and supported us. Our church family was quick to see a need and fill it. When we weren't around our immediate church family, other friends and brothers and sisters in Christ picked up where our church could not. They were there for us. Praise God for His body at work. This was what provided such a source of encouragement and comfort. It was a beautiful thing to see. 

   There were also things God was teaching us through others. Our family had to be able to accept the help so willingly given us. It's a funny thing. To need help but somehow still feel like we could pull things on our own. For me, my first inclination was to show that I was okay and could get through things without burdening others. However, when I accepted the help of the friends around me, it helped me realize how much I needed it. People wanted to help and needed the opportunity. It would be prideful to say I didn't need it and refuse simply because I didn't want to put the load on someone else. And again, regarding the Body of Christ at work, seeing that probably did more to encourage and uplift than anything else could.
   So here's the last bit of perspective I'd like to shed on this past year: Through the hardship, joy-filled times, laughter, and sorrow, God has shown His glory through it all. It's my constant prayer; "Lord, may Your name be glorified." I've had many people tell me this past year that watching our family has encouraged them, strengthened their faith, and brought them closer to Christ. I've seen renewed relationships, people putting differences aside for the collective purpose of helping us out. I've seen the hand of God on our family and in turn, touching others for the better. In no way do I credit this to us! Clearly, it's God working through us and despite us, and for that I thank and praise Him continually. Our God is an awesome God! I can only pray that His hand of blessing will continue to touch our lives and the lives of those around us in the years to come.

   What you have just read is only a minuscule part of the "Double take". It is just a tiny part of what I've observed through this year. It's not even an extensive list! How much more is God doing that we have yet to see? How much has He done that we won't know until later? How many lives has He worked in that we won't even see until heaven? How exciting is that? 

   I'm going to end this blog post with some words from Oswald Chambers:

"As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, unremembering delight, not with the flight of impulsive thoughtfulness, but with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future....Leave the irreparable past in His hands, and step out into the irresistible future with Him."

   As you enter the year 2015, always remember that our first idea of what is going on around us is not always going to be correct. We only see a little tiny part of the big picture. If you find yourself discouraged after drawing first conclusions of a matter, stop for a double take and see if the Lord doesn't show you something different. 

  Happy New Year, my friends.