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Friday, February 26, 2016

Mosh-pit morality


 
Last Friday my sons Levi and Seth invited me to go to a concert to watch 5 metal bands in Iowa City. These metal bands play hard, fast, ultra-aggressive music. No ballads here. All of the bands at this show screamed their lyrics. I didn't know the bands at all, so I literally understood zero words that were sung/screamed.

But the fans, mostly kids, knew the lyrics. And it seemed the lyrics to many of the songs had deep meaning for them.

Image result for mosh pitOverall, I had a good time. Mostly because I was with my boys and their friends. It does an old dog some good to hang with the pups in their world.


The pit of life


One of the main ingredients of concerts with these types of bands is the mosh pit. This is the place on the floor where some of the crowd dance wildly and intentionally collide with each other as they cross the pit from different directions.

This is in contrast with another part of these shows - the circle pit, where some of the crowd run hard in a circle in the same direction. There's still a lot of contact in the circle pit.
Image result for mosh pit
I didn't mosh at this concert. I hung up my mosh shoe before all the kids at this show pooped in their first diaper. I say "shoe" (singular) because the last time I moshed was in the early 90's to the band House of Large Sizes, and I blew a shoe. I don't remember if I found it or not.

The mosh pit is sweaty, chaotic, bloody, hard, fun, loaded with B.O., unpredictable. It's a lot like life. Some people stand on the sidelines, some jump in head first and get the biggest bang for their buck while the show's on. Even if it costs them some pain and teeth.

But one thing about the mosh pit stood out to me as I watched the chaos. When someone got knocked down - who was probably a complete stranger - other moshers would immediately stop and pick up their fallen comrade, then quickly resume moshing.

I thought to myself, "The world would be a much better place if we all stopped to pick up those around us who've fallen." This is preferred to what we see too often in life - people trampling over those who are weaker or just in the way.

Image result for mosh pit
The Yoder Floater  technique

The screaming ambassadors


2 of the 5 bands, Phinehas and headliner For Today, encouraged the crowd and proclaimed Jesus from the stage. And I thought their messages were very good.

It was so encouraging to see that God's got His ambassadors in every corner of life, boldly proclaiming the name and love of Jesus.



Sincerely,
Wes

P.S.
Image result for mosh pit
Girls just wanna have head-crackin' fun








   





Friday, February 19, 2016

"Jesus just stepped on my toes!"


Image result for free willWhether the question "Does man have free will?" is answered with "Yes" or "No," an age-old wild-goose chase is officially entered. I really enjoy eating goose, not chasing it.

I personally have never heard an air-tight defense for either answer to this challenging question. Though I obviously don't know everything, I do know that I don't want to dive into this fruitless debate.


A better question


I think there's a better question we can ask concerning man's will. A question for which we can find an encouraging, faith-building Biblical solution. The question:

"Who's will ultimately prevails - God's or man's?"


The hierarchy of wills


Look around at the world. Or stare into your own mirror. It seems as though man is currently winning the battle of wills with God. Is God letting man win this battle? Or is man more powerful than God? Or is God "the perfect Gentleman," Who will not step on man's tender little toes, even when it would be good for man if He did?

It's vital to remember that God is still working toward His ultimate goals. And it's also important to keep in mind that God is supernaturally patient (2 Peter 3:8-9). To look around and see what's currently going on and assume this is as good as it gets is being shortsighted.

I submit to you that God's will is infinitely higher and more powerful than man's. And God will eventually accomplish all of His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

But you must look into the future with the eyes of faith to see it.


God's will prevails in judgment


God, "the perfect Gentleman," judges humanity against humanity's will.

As Noah was putting the finishing touches on the ark, CNN polled people and asked, "Do you want to drown in the massive flood?". Not surprisingly, 100% of people polled did not want to die in the flood. But they all died, except those in the ark. God stepped on a few toes that day, and His will prevailed in judgment. (Note: He's not done with these people yet.)

Jesus said in John 5,

28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice 29 and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. (Revised Standard Version)

Do you think those who are in the sleep of death will be happy to be raised to face Jesus in the resurrection of judgment? No. But God's will prevails over man's in judgment.

Raise your hand if you want to be cast into the lake of fire at the great white throne judgment. No takers? But an innumerable mass of people will be put into the lake of fire - those who are not found written in the book of life (Revelation 20:15). Again, God's will prevails over man's in judgment.

"So," you ask, "God strong-arms the rebellious into judgment? Does God use His almighty will for anythin' good?"

I'm so very glad you asked.


God's will prevails in salvation


Though sometimes God's judgment is necessary, there is also a time for God's ultimate will - salvation.

[God our Savior] will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4 - King James Version)

Many believe God will save all people and bring them to the truth. Many say God can't do this. Many say God won't do this.

Saul, the hyper-religious Pharisee, hated and persecuted the resurrected Jesus and His followers. With bad intentions, he headed from Jerusalem to Damascus to rough up some Christians.

Jesus met Saul on the way with His own set of intentions - a completely different, good plan for Saul's life. Jesus confronted him, humbled him, temporarily blinded him, and told him he was fighting a losing battle.

Jesus then overwhelmed Saul with grace, faith and love.

Jesus' foremost persecutor, who called himself "the worst of sinners," was changed by Jesus into one of His greatest ambassadors. Saul became Paul and wrote a large portion of the New Testament. God's will prevailed in the salvation of "the worst of sinners."

"Yeah, but Saul was the exception to the rule." Was he? Keep reading.  


Hyper grace


Paul later wrote about his life-changing encounter with Jesus.

13 I, who formerly was a calumniator [blasphemer] and a persecutor and an outrager: but I was shown mercy, seeing that I do it being ignorant, in unbelief.
14 Yet the grace of our Lord overwhelms, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.
15 Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all welcome, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, foremost of whom am I.
16 But therefore was I shown mercy, that in me, the foremost, Jesus Christ should be displaying all His patience, for a pattern of those who are about to be believing on Him for life eonian.
(1 Timothy 1:13-16 - Concordant Literal New Testament)

Notice the word overwhelms in verse 14. This is the only occurrence of the Greek word huperpleonazo in the Bible. It's a compound word made of huper (from which we get hyper), meaning over or beyond, and pleonazo, meaning to superabound or to exist in abundance.

So we could say that the grace of Jesus over-superabounded Saul. It seriously overwhelmed him. He couldn't stop Jesus' grace. Definition of grace: Favor given to those who deserve the opposite.

Saul couldn't stop Jesus' undeserved favor, even though he deserved judgment. That's GRACE! And it truly is amazing. God's will prevailed in salvation.

"Yeah, but God had a plan for Saul. Like I said before, he's an exception to the rule."

Verse 16 tells us Saul was the pattern for those who would believe on Jesus, not the exception.

We are all saved by the same general pattern of Saul. We are ignorantly rebellious in unbelief, confronted by the supernaturally-patient Jesus, humbled, shown mercy, overwhelmed by His grace, reconciled to Him. That's how He accomplishes 1 Timothy 2:4.


But wait! There's more!


Image result for Billy Mays

"Hi! Billy Mays here! You'll not just receive Jesus' undeserved favor, you'll also receive - FREE of charge and with NO shipping and handling costs - faith and love!" 


Notice in verse 14 above that Jesus didn't just overwhelm Saul with grace, but with faith and love.

Jesus gives us the faith that is essential to believe in Him. And the love we need to properly relate to Him. Talk about gifts! Merry Christmas indeed! Four for the price of none - Jesus, grace, faith and love.

It cost Saul absolutely nothing in this transaction (which is always the case when you get a gift). Jesus did all the work. And Saul got this while he was on his way to persecute Jesus' followers. Yeah, Jesus stepped on Saul's toes, and His will prevailed in salvation!

Notice verse 15 - "Jesus came into the world to save sinners." This is part of His enormous, but doable, mission from His Father. ♪♫One sinner at a tiiiiiiiime, sweet Jesus!♫♪

He'll finish this mission. All sinners will be saved, even if billions of toes get bruised in the process.


Lost sheep are found


Image result for sheep being drug away image
"Hey Jesus. I've, uh, been looking for You. No, really!"
Jesus said in John 10:11, "I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep."
 
When Jesus goes after a lost sheep, doesn't He realize that maybe Fluffy just wants to be left alone?

Well, Jesus has bigger plans for ignorant little Fluffy. And He's got bigger plans for all of us. Yes, all of us have been ignorantly lost sheep. Jesus has rescued some of us. He will eventually rescue all of us because He "is come to save that which was lost" (Matthew 18:11).

Be encouraged by this story.

Then drew near unto [Jesus] all the publicans [tax collectors] and sinners for to hear Him.
And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners, and eats with them."
And He spoke this parable unto them, saying, "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, 'Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.'
Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance."
(Combination of Matthew 18:13-14 and Luke 15:1-7)

Notice what God's will is - "Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." Have we not all been little ones? It's God's will that none of us perish.

Can you see from this story the value of every single sheep?

And the lost sheep was passive in his rescue.

Yes, Jesus can save you all by Himself, just like He saved Saul. He doesn't need your help. He'll lay you on His shoulders and get you where you need to be. Then He'll go back out to get the rest of the lost sheep.

That's why He's called "the Great Shepherd of the sheep" (Hebrews 13:20).


"Overruled!"


God's not concerned with being "the perfect Gentleman," Who never violates our wayward wills.

God, as Judge and Savior, will overrule us. He has to. If He didn't, we would remain lost sheep. And that's obviously not His plan for any of us.

God's will will ultimately prevail over man's. And we should be glad it does, because His will is good, pleasing, and perfect (Romans 12:2). He knows what He's doing, and He doesn't care if it makes sense to us right now.

God says in Isaiah 46,

9 ... I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure."
Rejoice in this!


Sincerely,
Wes

P.S. So, does man have free will? I like Dilbert's final answer.


 

 



Friday, February 12, 2016

Crushing Jesus


Have you ever felt like God's a gazillion miles away? Or that He's not even there at all? I think we've probably all felt this way at one time or another. But what's the reality of God's nearness to us? How far away is He?


Finding the invisible God


I've often imagined what my life would've been like if I'd lived during other times - the early stages of man's existence, or the wild west in America, or the time when Jesus walked the earth. But I didn't have a say in the matter. So here I am, right where God wants me in 2016.

God determined where you, and everyone else, would be born. And He determined what time in history you would live.

There's one major reason why you were plopped into the circumstances of your life. 

Paul, a follower of Jesus, explained this reason to a crowd in Athens who'd never heard of Jesus. 

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the council on Mars Hill and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you."
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’... " (Acts 17)

Those words I put in bold, especially the bold italics, were given by God through Paul to give you hope.

"Open your eyes. I'm right here."
God created you exactly when and where He wanted you to be so you "would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him." And this is exactly what will eventually happen for all people. If not in this life, in the next. He'll cause you to find Him, even if He has to grab and crank your distracted, reluctant head.  

God is not far from you!

So why does He sometimes (or maybe all the time) seem so far away? The answer lies in the following story.


Suffering woman seeks, reaches for, and finds God


The purpose of the following uplifting true story is to help us find our God, Who is already near.

As Jesus was on His way, the crowds almost crushed Him.
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.
She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch His clothes, I will be healed.”  
Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched My clothes?”
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against You.”
But Jesus said, “Someone touched Me; I know that power has gone out from Me.”
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at His feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched Him and how she had been instantly healed.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
(Combination of Mark 5:26-34 and Luke 8:42-48)

Awesome story.

The frenzied crowds were nearly crushing Jesus. But only one person in the mass seemed to catch His attention. Someone had sought Him, reached out for Him, and found Him as God desires to happen according to Acts 17:26-27.

A life-changing and life-saving connection had been made between the poor woman and Jesus.


Why some connect with Jesus, and some don't


Was power going out of Jesus to other people in the crowd that were bumping into and nearly crushing Him? It doesn't seem so. If you're merely bumping into Jesus but aren't connected to Him and His power, He's basically "an unknown god" to you, as He was to the Athenians in Acts 17.

So what was it about this suffering woman's touching His clothes that was different from all those who were nearly smothering Him? Faith! According to God's desire in Acts 17:27, she
  • sought Him
  • reached out for Him
  • found Him

    When you do these expecting to make a genuine connection with God - the invisible God will somehow make Himself known to you. And you'll know that you've connected with Him.

    These are three things that ANYONE, ANYWHERE can do to come to know Jesus. I was just an average Joe in my early twenties when I met Jesus in St. Louis Park, Minnesota in the early '90s. Just me and Jesus in my empty one-bedroom apartment. And I haven't been the same since then.

    Are you expectantly doing these three things? This is God's desire for you. And He's crafted the circumstances of your life for it to happen. Why not today? Why not right now, right where you are? Don't move a muscle, except the ones you need to call out to Jesus.

    If you've already connected with God, that's awesome. Stay with Him.


    Power for you


    When power went out of Jesus, the woman received it and greatly benefited. (Don't worry, Jesus won't run out of power. There's plenty for everyone.)

    But when you don't know Him, you don't experience His power.

    When someone comes to Jesus with faith, they receive a unique, supernatural power directly from Jesus. He's got a monopoly on this power. You can't buy it. You can't sell it. Jesus gives it freely to those who seek Him, reach for Him, and find Him. And His power can do amazing things. For this woman it was physical healing. And I'm sure she was healed emotionally also. Wouldn't you love to talk with her and hear her whole story?

    This power also connects us to Jesus so that we know He's near us, even when we may not feel that He is. It's like my relationship with my wife. I always know she loves me, but I don't always get a tingly feeling about it (but sometimes my heart does beat a little faster when I think about her). I would rather know that she loves me than be dependent on fickle feelings to prove her love to me. I can always know, but I don't always feel.


    "I tried the Jesus thing and it didn't work."


    I don't know your exact situation. But I've heard people say they "tried" Jesus and it didn't work. Some of these people merely went into a church building expecting something magical to happen. And nothing happened other than them adding Jesus to their list of things that don't work. They may have very well been in a dead church where Jesus wasn't the focus at all. There could have been other factors that prevented them from connecting with Jesus.
    Seek Him, reach for Him, find Him

    Notice in the story above that the suffering woman didn't go to the synagogue for healing (though she may have tried this earlier). She'd tried things that had no power for 12 long years, and she grew worse. Finally, she went directly to Jesus, because she knew He was the One with the power she needed. He was her last hope. And she was healed.

    Have you gone directly to Jesus? Or have you simply done some religious stuff - where there is zero power - and gave up.

    Or maybe you've done religious stuff for many years, and you still don't know Jesus and His power. Notice above in Acts 17:22-23 that the Athenians were "very religious," but they didn't know God.

    Where are you placing your hope for healing, power and salvation? Are you trying everything except Jesus? If so, how's that working out? He's still there, not far from you - seek Him, reach out for Him, find Him.

    What does Jesus have in store for you when you come to Him? Love, power, grace, forgiveness, relationship, peace, hope, new life, and so much more. I can try to explain it, but you need to experience it.


    Sincerely,
    Wes

    P.S. Never forget this: You are the offspring of the living, loving, almighty God.





    Friday, February 5, 2016

    "Hitler escapes from Hell!"


    In the distant future ...

    British Anchorwoman: "This just in: Adolph Hitler, yes that Adolph Hitler, has escaped from Hell. The Twittersphere is exploding with eye-witness reports of the former F├╝hrer eating tacos in New Jerusalem. Let's go live to the scene and reporter Mox Malik."

    Indian Reporter: "Yes, Jeannine, I'm here at the so-called 'gates of Hell,' and the place seems secure. There are no signs of a break-out. The enormous gates are completely intact. A huge crowd is gathering to see if the reports of Hitler's escape are true. Sir! Excuse me, sir! Did you see what happened here?"

    Jewish Witness: "Yes. I saw the whole thing."

    "Could you please tell our viewers exactly what you saw?"

    "Sure. I walked over to the gates, unlocked them, and let Adolph go free."

    "So Adolph Hitler did not escape from Hell?"

    "That's right. Jeannine's lead-in and the headline on this blog post are wrong. Mox, those who come here can't escape from their judgment. Didn't you see the size of the lock? Besides, I have the only key."

    "OK. But why did you let him go free?"

    "He was properly judged and became very humble. He repented and asked me to forgive him. So I did. He's a new man now. You should go talk with him. He's very pleasant and witty. I bet he'll even buy the first round of tacos."

    "You forgave him?"

    "Yes."

    "Sir, don't you know about all the horrible things Mr. Hitler did?"

    "Yes Mox, I'm very well aware of his past. Don't you know what I did?"

    "Yes! You released one of the worst people who ever lived!"

    "True, I did do that. But I also died for Adolph, just as I died for everyone else so they could be set free from sin and death and be made right with God. I change people. I make them new."

    "Sir, who are you?"

    "I'm Jesus, the Savior of the world. It says so right in the Bible."


    _______________________________________________________
    Note: This is a fictional story. I don't know if Hitler even likes tacos. But the general idea of the story is something that will actually happen - the salvation of all people through Jesus, even the very worst of us. He'll do it. And that's great news. I'm excited to see how this plays out in the future.

    The following is not fiction:

    4 [God our Savior] will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Timothy)

    And one thing is certain - whether in this life or the next - coming to Jesus is the ONLY way to be saved.

    Jesus says unto him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me." (John 14:6)

    Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

    To learn more about the Savior of the world, read the Bible. For a biblical study of this topic, get the book JESUS and Hitler (slightly less than a buck on Kindle).