Thursday, August 14, 2014

What My Broken Heart Has Taught Me

Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV) There is a lesson in this instruction from Jesus Sermon on the Mount that God has been teaching me this year.

© Ananya Rubayant
I have an area of my life that I am not thrilled with. To be honest, it is an area that I find very little satisfaction at all. I have my desires and I have found over the years that my desires have not been met. My heart is broken over this. I had dreamed for years of these desires being lived out … but when the opportunity for them has presented itself … I have found my heart crushed and have felt no real hope for fulfillment. And what makes it even worse, I have had little indulgences in these desires, and I know they are not just desires and hopes, but if lived out would provide a bit of good satisfaction to my life.

So in my despair, I decided I was going to pray about this area of my life. This has been an immense blessing. Not only in prayer did I get the dissatisfaction off of my proverbial chest but I also learned a little bit more about myself. Prayer forces us to be introspective about ourselves. When we pray the correct way, we come before the throne of God humble, honest, and looking at our motives for our petitions. The process of prayer broke me. I asked the question of am I being selfish? Am I wrong in my desires? Are my desires His intention for this gift? Is this what’s best for everyone involved? Is this something that honors God? In my introspection God opened the eyes of my heart.

And then God showed me some areas of improvement in my heartache. For that I thanked God. I was thrilled. I celebrated. I was joyous because I was seeing improvement. And that is where I made a mistake. My mistake was not in thanking God for His answer to my prayers. That was an essential ingredient in the process. I do not think we can ever ask God for his work and movement and ignore that blessing. How arrogant we are if we fail to thank God! My mistake was I stopped praying for His continued work.

I saw improvement, I thanked God, and then I left it alone. And with that, I stopped working on myself, I stopped making the improvements I needed to, and I stopped being introspective, learning all the things that prayer was teaching me. Now, my heart is crushed again, and I have found myself back almost where I started. I am unhappy. I am feeling a state of depression. It is affecting my relationships with those that I love. I am not proud of who I am right now. I am not driven. I am lazy. I am mad at myself.

Jesus told us to ask, seek, and knock. This is a continual process. God already knows who we are and what we need before we ever ask Him. He only wants what’s best for us. But sometimes He waits until we are ready to come to Him, because in prayer, in our broken state He wants to teach us, He wants to mold us, He wants to shape us into His masterpiece. And when I saw improvement, I stopped God’s work, thinking He was done. God was not ready to stop working, but I had selfishly decided God was done. I am only sorry it took more heartbreak to learn this lesson. From now on I will ask, seek, and knock until God shows me that His work is complete. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March 20, 2014 – James 1 – Consider it Joy

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

I want to thank you for returning to the blog. Doing a daily blog is a challenge and sometimes it feels like a chore. Sometimes I struggle to bring fresh content. I get into a rhythm of receptiveness that is often hard to break. I have found the best way to do so is to suspend the blog for a while and then return. With our reading through Acts it was hard to break back in in the middle of the book. Please forgive me for my absence.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • The book of James was written to Christians who had a Jewish heritage living throughout the Roman Empire. The book is often sited as a perfect road map for new Christians helping them understand a little about what following God looks like.
  • James begins his writing reminding the Christian that trials, temptations, maybe even persecutions are going to come their way. It is how we respond that determines whether these are helpful or hurtful. James challenges us to consider it joy when we face trials. This is a strange concept. But if we learn to consider it joy we will be quicker to see God at work. Trials make us stronger, and they lead us to victory in God.
  • He also reminds us that it is not God that tempts us, but Satan. We are tempted when we let our evil desire overcome us. This choice on our part begins a downward spiral that if not overcome can lead to death; separation from God.
  • James then goes on to encourage people to check their lives. If we want to overcome temptation and champion over the trials, then we must examine our heart and mind. James uses an analogy of looking in the mirror and forgetting what you look like as foolishness. As people living today we have the word of God. In His word is instruction on how to live a life that honors the grace and salvation He is given us. Reading the word and failing to live it out is foolishness. If we want to overcome the trials, temptations, and event the persecutions then we must put into practice what God’s word teaches.

What is this passage teaching?
  • This passage reminds us that life, even as a Christian, is not always going to be easy. Temptation will always be present and something we must keep our eyes open to. Trails will present themselves from time to time. How we handle that determines how our faith blossoms and matures. God allows us to experience trials and temptations to mold, shape, and chisel us into the beautiful creation He has in mind.

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Take to heart James first challenge … “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Look for the ways that God might be using this to develop you into the person He is creating you to be. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014 – Acts 1 – Evangelism

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Today we begin the book of Acts. Acts was the second book written by Dr. Luke. Luke’s first work was the gospel named after him. Many scholars believe Luke wrote both Luke and Acts for the purpose of the Apostle Paul’s trial before the Roman Emperor. These two works would possibly serve as a foundation for the Emperor for who Paul was and what Christianity is. The way this book ends gives some credence to this theory as it all the sudden stops with Paul in Rome.
  • In our reading we have not yet read Luke’s first work; his gospel. Luke’s gospel was about the life of Jesus. The book of Acts is about the early life of the church. It picks up where his gospel leaves off. It gives us a glimpse into Jesus final day and His final teaching before being called up to Heaven.
  • Through Acts we learn that Jesus spent forty more days on the earth after His resurrection. During this time He taught His disciples all they would need to know and do to prove to the world who He was. In the beginning pages of Acts Jesus gives us His mission strategy; Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all ends of the earth. Basically Jesus taught them start at home and move on from there. After all His teaching was done Jesus was called up to Heaven.
  • These disciples have a huge task before them. For ten days they will be without the power of the Holy Spirit. There used to be twelve in their inner circle of Jesus followers, but now, after Judas decision, there are only eleven. They felt it necessary that there be twelve men. Maybe they thought because Jesus choose twelve they must continue with twelve. Maybe they thought the number twelve represented the twelve tribes of Israel. For whatever reason they choose a twelfth man by drawing straws: that twelfth man was Mathias, a man who saw Jesus entire ministry from baptism to death to ascension 
What is this passage teaching?
  • Jesus had a specific purpose for the men He chose to be a part of His inner circle. These men had the responsibility of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven into existence upon the earth. The work would not be easy, but Jesus would give these men all the preparation they needed, including an evangelism strategy. The work was not easy, so they disciples found it necessary to include all the men they could into their inner circle. 

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • The book of Acts opens strongly with the hint that evangelism is going to be a key virtue of the Kingdom of Heaven. How are you doing at living a life of evangelism? How are you doing at sharing your faith? Join us as we learn some practical lessons in Acts in ways to share our faith. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

February 8, 2014 – Proverbs 4 – Light in the Darkness

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

As we venture through the Psalms and Proverbs portion of our reading it will take on more of a devotional thought and less of the passage teaching of the New Testament study.

I love contrast. Sometimes we can only see the full beauty and complexity of something when it is contrasted against something else. The writer of Proverbs does that today with righteousness and wickedness.

He describes wickedness as darkness. Have you have ever been in complete darkness? That is a hard thing to come by. When I was in high school my youth group went to Summer in the Son at Kentucky Christian University. One day during our free time we went caving in nearby caverns. We found a spot where we could turn off the flash lights and spend some time worshiping in the dark. It was an awesome experience, but a little unsettling as well. It was completely dark and the darkest environment I have ever encountered. It was a fun experience, but not one I would want to live in for any amount of time. This darkens though is what the writer says wickedness is consumed with.

On the other side he compares righteousness to light … “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Proverbs 4:18 NIV. Have you ever watched the sun rise? My favorite place to do it is at the beach. I love to go out before the sun even thinks of rising. It is fun to watch the day get progressively brighter. What an awesome picture of righteousness the author paints for us. And as a side note, what is light supposed to do? Illuminate the darkness. That means, as people striving for righteousness, it should be our desire to remove as much wickedness from our world as we can. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

February 5, 2014 – Matthew 26 – Never Give Up

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • It feels sort of like decision day. Jesus knows that the hour is closing in that He will be killed. Jesus has predicted His death before, but what a shocking statement this is when He includes the mode of death. All that Jesus has said these last few day has become the final nail in the coffin. There is now real activity in the planning of Jesus death.
  • For the past week Jesus has been staying in Bethany, a small town outside the city of Jerusalem. From other accounts we know He is staying with Lazarus, and his sisters Mary and Martha. It is in this home that a woman pours out an expensive perfume all over Jesus. This woman does a beautiful thing, but the disciples, possibly lead by Judas, rebuke her … there might be a mix of motives here, maybe they have learned from Jesus and their hearts are really for the poor or maybe they are covering up evil intentions … i.e. Judas whose betrayal to the religious leaders is immediately shared. Jesus reminds them that His presence is only temporary and the time stamp is almost up.
  • On Thursday night Jesus sends the disciples ahead to prepare the Passover feast. He has arranged a room for this to happen and they go and secure it. During the traditional Passover meal, Jesus shares that one will betray Him and another will deny Him. He presents them both, and tells Judas to go do what he has set in his mind to do.
  • It is during this meal that Jesus establishes the Lord’s Supper, a meal Christians partake of each and every week. This meal reminds us that Jesus body was given up for our life. This meal reminds that it is the shed blood that saves man from sin. The elements of bread and fruit of the vine represent this sacrifice!
  • After the meal, Jesus and His disciples return to the Mount of Olives. Here on the Mount is a private garden named Gethsemane that Jesus probably has an open invitation to visit. More than likely from this spot Jesus can see all of Jerusalem, especially the Temple mount. The week has been long. The week has been exciting … remember how it began; people lining the streets, Jesus riding in on a donkey to the shouts of praise? Jesus has taught and strongly confronted the Pharisees. Whatever Jesus is getting ready for the anticipation must be at a boiling point. But along with this long week comes exhaustion. As Jesus heart feels overwhelmed and as He goes to pray, He asks His disciples to keep watch and to pray, but they are not able; they fall asleep.
  • Jesus returns to His disciples in between prayers, prayers where He asks God to take the cup of wrath that is coming, understanding that is not God’s will, and finds them asleep. While talking with them, the one, Judas, who has betrayed Jesus, arrives with a crowd of guards sent by the High Priest. Judas kissed Jesus signaling that He was the one, causing Jesus to be arrested.
  • It is here that Jesus is brought in for His first series of trails before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was made up of both Pharisees and Sadducees. They were the ruling body in the legislative branch of Judaism.  Here Jesus is presented His charge … blaspheme. It is during this first trial that Peter denies any relationship with Jesus to the crowds standing on the outside watching. 

What is this passage teaching?
  • Jesus has had a remarkable week. It is all coming to a crashing end. The last few hours of Jesus life is consumed with Jesus pouring into His disciples. All the way until the end He is teaching them and guiding them and building them up. 

How can I apply this passage to my life?

  • Do you have someone you are investing into? Do you get frustrated with their slow growth? Do you feel like they just don’t get it? Jesus had to feel that way from time to time. But He never gave up. Until the very end He was pouring into them; at Lazarus home, at the Last Supper, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and after Peter cuts the ear the servant. Do not give up. Find patience, Continuing pouring into and investing in those you love and care for. Who knows but God when the seed will begin to grow.

My response to the Ken Ham and Bill Nye debate

I applaud both men for striving to have a civil honest discussion about their disagreements. If more people especially our government would take their civil approach our nation and our churches would be much better off. These two men were both very passionate about their stated stance and both articulated without destroying the other in a humiliating and nonsensical manner.

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It was very evident that Ken Ham was much more prepared for this debate. That isn’t an attack on Bill Nye. Ham has devoted his life’s work to promoting a Biblical explanation for the theory of origins. He has spent a considerable many hours researching and understanding the evolutionist theories, teachings, and process. A simple walk through the Creation Museum indicates that Answers in Genesis knows and understands evolution.

Bill Nye wasn’t underprepared for the debate, he simply lacked the storerooms of knowledge that Ham has ready. He did say he learned something for Ham’s thirty minute presentation. I would love to have known what that lesson was. Was it a better understanding of what Ham believes? What it a better understanding of the process of creation scientist? Was it something else? Nye did an excellent job but it was evident he isn’t complete in his knowledge of the whole of creation science.

I found the debate format a little troubling. Nye asked Ham several questions that I just don’t believe the format gave Ham the proper ability to respond to. I would have liked to have seen the debaters be allowed to ask each other questions and then responses given to the others questions. The Q&A portion was fine, but real questions were raised without a time to have a dialogue before the next question was presented. Maybe this was done to ensure the civility of the debate, but it would have provided answers and real debate.

What I found that was lacking from the debate was belief. Ken Ham reminded everyone several times that his starting point is the Bible. He admits that and doesn’t back down. What I would have loved to see Ham do was remind that because we cannot observe the world that we are looking back to, the evidence we see takes some level of faith to believe in. At the very least, if I have to have faith to believe one of the systems, I like the one that gives me hope and purpose and doesn’t say I am here by accident.

Bill Nye was trouble by Ken Ham’s lack of being able to predict an outcome. I failed to follow his logic on this one. The debate was centered on the question, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” What Nye was troubled by was not a part of the debate. Was Nye implying because Ham was working through the debate to support Biblical Creation to look at origins, that creation scientist could not predict outcomes and invent technology? If so Ham did answer that question by presenting the scientist who invented the MRI that is a creationist.  Nye was troubled by Ham looking back but wasn’t that the point of the debate?

I was troubled by Nye when he kept promoting education and scientific exploration for America’s (specifically Kentucky’s) youth. His promotion didn’t trouble me, but his undermining idea that a creation scientist would find no success did. That I believe is the fallacy of his and other evolutionist’s problem. They see creation scientist as people who are faith based and not intelligent. Nye reinforced the notion that creationists are not given proper academic accolades simply because they have faith. Nye really showed this when he misrepresented the Bible. While he claimed to not be a theologian, he didn’t have to, it was evident that he doesn’t understand the words contained in the Bible and the narrative it tells. He doesn’t understand the knowledge that it takes to understand the Bible whether that is through an academic institutions or from simple years of studying scripture. This notion that intelligence is not present in the Biblical Creation community was amplified in Nye’s poor understanding of scripture and his promotion of science education for the future.

I understand that I am biased. There were questions Nye raised last night that I cannot answer. There were questions asked to both men that Nye could not answer. But my faith … I understand to those outside the church find it silly … answers those questions. My faith reminds me that I serve the creator of the universe. My faith tells me He can do in Nye’s 4,000 years what might take billions in Nye’s view to accomplish. I understand that faith is the foundation for me, but I am ok with that. What I love is that when given the evidence, even with the pieces we are missing, God still shows himself through the scientific evidence. My faith isn’t blind.