A Little Clearer

I’m always fascinated when I encounter something that helps to refocus my perception.  I’m not saying that I’m willy-nilly in my beliefs.  Quite the contrary.  Yet, I’m continually growing in my faith and my limited understanding is slowly expanding.

Granted, my focus has been on victims of natural disasters and on the homeless (I prefer to consider them as outdoor friends), but the world is much larger than my myopic view.  We live in a world with immeasurable complexity, yet I tend to reduce it to black and white.  Through the lens of the Bible, there are the saved and the unsaved, the ultimate black and white comparison, but oftentimes I find myself usurping the Judge’s Seat.

I’ll admit that I can only consider one idea or issue at a time.  I’m aware that John 3:16 tells us that Jesus came because God loves the world (or more specifically, mankind), but I am also aware that John 3:17 states that the world might be saved through him (emphasis added).  That implies that not all will be saved.  

I believe in the doctrine of election as evidenced in John 15:16, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, and Revelation 13:8 (just to name a few verses).  I also believe in free will as evidenced in the Garden which Paul points out in Romans 5:12.  Two apparent paradoxical truths that are difficult to hold simultaneously.  It’s like a difficult calculus problem that has to be addressed in parts before the answer can be derived.  

The point is that God alone determines who goes to heaven without compromising our free will, and we need to be faithful to what He has charged us with:  to be faithful in proclaiming the Gospel.  

It’s not up to us to decide if the homeless, or the Muslim, or the postmodern, or our neighbor across the street is grafted in.  Our job is simply to proclaim the Good News.

When Work Interferes With Laziness

I haven’t posted lately because I forgot how taxing a job can be.  I get up at 4:30 each morning, and it feels great to get off work so early in the afternoon, but I’m always tired.  It feels strange to get ready for bed so early in the evening.  It’s not that I really have an issue with getting up so early, I just don’t like to go to bed before 10 p.m.

It’s also a bit of a challenge spending most of my day on my feet.  My ankykosing spondylitis on top of my general sense of laziness is why I spend my free time lounging on the couch.  I’m switching from Humira to Remicade, so I’m hoping it will help.  Now if I can only get a shot to combat my laziness.

A Shattered Delusion

There was a time when my life was illusory and paradoxical.  I used to have a bleak outlook where I believed that my life was purposeless and I was wasting the years that had been given to me, yet I was certain that I was a pretty good guy purported by my strong character and perfect sense of right and wrong that would ultimately garner an exceedingly favorable afterlife.  On October 9, 2009, my life was completely upended.  I had a vasectomy, a relatively minor procedure that left me in crippling pain.  October 8, 2009 was probably the last pain-free day I’ll ever enjoy.  Interestingly enough, that fateful day was the most important day in my life.

I didn’t realize that one must be utterly broken to come to the Cross.  After all, I had already asked Jesus into my heart, was sprinkled as an infant, and was confirmed when I was thirteen.  I was in the system.  I was so saved that I didn’t even need Jesus.  At least I lived that way.

Deep in the hidden recesses of my heart I knew I was in big trouble but I told myself that I was a swell guy.  In comparison to everyone else, my flaws were so minute that God could easily overlook them.  My foibles were infinitesimal in comparison to the godless heathens running the streets.  I was a terrific catch for God.  It’s not like I murdered anyone, right?  Or have I?  In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus tells us that unrighteous anger is murder in the heart.  Oops.

Then there is the lying, the stealing, the dishonoring of my parents, even adultery of the heart.  That’s a tough one to swallow, but Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 5:28.  If we delve into the OT, Hosea illustrates that we are all adulterers to God.  The marriage of Hosea and Gomer is a picture of the marriage of Christ to his church.  His unfaithful bride. Our broken vows.  An ongoing affair where we turn to our success, our money, our vices, our hobbies; we turn our idols into cheap substitutes for our Redeemer.  Yet Christ made an unbreakable covenant with his people.  This was the God I rejected because I already had my ticket to heaven punched with all that I had done.  I created my own paradise in my mind where I was my own savior.  I lived in a world where I had broken all of the Commandments before breakfast, but in my eyes, I was a good person.  I was delusional.

I was blinded by my relativism, and my veil of perceived goodness had to be pierced.  Not just pierced, but utterly shattered by a curse that left me with a lifetime of pain.  This was much more than hurt feelings, but enduring physical pain that will forever remind me of what I once was.  This curse was perhaps the greatest gift that God could have given me because it afforded me the opportunity for saving grace.

I can clearly see that I once lived in a world of make-believe.  I persisted in a fictitious realm where I usurped God’s authority and redefined the qualifications for entrance to heaven much like people redefine gender and marriage today.  I am still a bad man, but I am a bad man who has been redeemed by a good God.

CC image courtesy of waferboard on Flickr.

Livin’ the Dream

I started working at the Shreveport Bossier Rescue Mission a month ago and I have to say that this is the most fulfilling and rewarding paying job I have ever had.  (I still have my unpaid job with Mercy Chefs, and God willing, I will be a Mercy Chef living like no one else for many more years.)  My chef friends with Mercy Chefs have trained, guided, and counseled me over the years to prepare me for this job.  It’s certainly challenging, but the opportunity to serve the homeless is why I eagerly get up every morning at 4:30.
It took me many years to learn that one reason God created us is to serve others.  All too often, we get mired in self-importance and lose sight of the fact that we are only dust.  Life is only a vapor.  I don’t want to waste it in selfishness.  Most important, I have my beautiful wife to help me to stay focused on the prize when I fall and throw a pity party.  
That being said, I can’t wait for 4:30!

Could Be Raining

It’s been three weeks since I started my new job.  For the most part, I haven’t worked these past forty-five months because of my medical ailments.  We have spent this time paying off debt and it’s just about time to throw our debt snowball at my thousands of dollars in student debt.  It’s interesting that my education has been utterly worthless from a financial perspective.  Nevertheless, I still have the debt and my wife told me, “Suck it up, Princess.  We have to get gazelle intense and start killing cheetahs.”  You just gotta love Dave Ramsey and his analogies.

I’m fortunate in that I actually have a job that I value.  I get to serve our homeless everyday.  I believe that my volunteer work over the past four or five years have prepared me for this job.  Granted, I’m only a cook, but a delicious meal can bring some color to a bleak life. 

Am I still in pain?  Certainly.  If my nerve pain isn’t flared up, I’m dealing with the nightmare that is ankylosing spondylitis.  I get ready for work at four a.m. when I feel pretty decent.  When I finally get home from work, I’m in so much pain that I can’t pry myself from the couch.  Or the floor.  I have an appointment to see my rheumatologist next week, so maybe I’ll get to try a new medication as Humira helps greatly, but I’m still suffering.

I know that I have a blessed life despite my hardships.  When I am crushed by the pain I sometimes remember what Marty Feldman said to Gene Wilder as they were grave robbing in Young Frankenstein.  He said, “Could be worse.  Could be raining.”