If I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t be satisfied.

Image

Is it good for people to fulfill their desires of hope?

When I make a backing track on Youtube for someone to record vocals over ‘You and I’ or make a video promoting the purchase of the top Electric Upright Bass on the market, it is making the chance slightly better that someone will pursue God. Why? Let’s consider a story first:

1. Story

“A little boy has decided to go out and get some baseball cards. Once he figures out that there is one that is the best, he makes the decision that he won’t stop until he gets Babe Ruth. So he keeps buying cards every weekend, spending all his allowance on it.” Now let’s stop and think, what if the little boy never got the card? He would think that when he got that card, he would be fulfilled. So his hope would still be in that card. If he got it, however, then he would quickly realize that he was putting his energy and getting his life/hope from something useless and unfulfilling. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11)

2. Biblical relations

Image

Think about the story of Solomon in the Bible. He got everything he could from this world, riches, knowledge, wisdom, food, a big house, tons of wives, and lots of other stuff. He states, “all was vanity and grasping for the wind.”  (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11)

Matthew 6:21 says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Think about where you have treasure. Nearly everyone has treasure on earth; but we must, rather, shift to the mindset that we are merely passing through this world.

In John 18:36, Jesus reminds us He is not of this world; otherwise, his servants would defend Him. Often, we defend something other than ourselves: our stuff, which is of way less value than ourselves.

Hebrews 2:7 reminds us of this saying God has made us “a little lower than the angels”, crowned us with glory and honor, and set us over the works of His hands.

3. The sooner, the better.

Many people think that once they get a lot of likes or thumbs ups on youtube for a singing video, then they will be filled up; not so. The sooner they can find that out, the better; it’s something they can cross off of their ‘fulfillment list’(maybe ‘bucket’ list). Some people also think that once they buy the next thing, an Electric Upright Bass(the best one), then they will be satisfied; not so. The sooner they can find that out, the better. In this sense, it would be better for people (specifically non-believers) to experience all the possibilities of things that could fill them up so that they could see it wasn’t fulfilling.

Regrettably, people go through their whole lives in hope thinking they never were fulfilled because they didn’t get that one house, when they don’t realize they wouldn’t have gotten filled up in the first place, when only Jesus can quench that thirst in being satisfied in the constant pursuing of us to know Him more. (John 4) Jesus even did this in John 3:30. I may be treading on rough theological grounds to argue He was going through a process His whole life even though He was perfect.

The Smiths

A song that comes to mind: Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now by The Smiths. I love this song because it is so true of everybody’s worldly state without a hope in Jesus Christ.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoxTVonejwg

Wouldn’t it be better for someone to get everything they wanted; just so they weren’t driven by something like the hope of getting a big house at the end of their life, or a fancy car? It can even be dangerous in the aspect of children. I hear this all the time: “Once I have some grandchildren, then I will be satisfied.”

As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, “he who increases knowledge increases sorrow”; because the more someone gets of anything, besides Jesus Christ, the more of a reason that person has to realize it’s unfulfilling.

Image

I know someone who has a package in the mail about 3 times a week. He is always getting something that will make life easier for him. It’s gotten so bad and out of hand that he even bought another skateboard just so he could leave one at school and one at home-so he could save 15 seconds unlocking his bike; when will it end? I’ll tell you when: once he gets the most convenient lifestyle and realizes it isn’t fulfilling. In reality, I sincerely hope 20 packages a week come so that it hits him sooner rather than later.

4. Conclusion

This isn’t meant to be a downer post at all, rather, it is intended for us to make less of everything else we put hope in so that Jesus Christ stands higher above material things, knowledge, wisdom, and anything else we ‘get’ in this world; to realize that these things will never fulfill.

Climbing the tree of life

Image

Have you ever looked at a Christmas tree and wondered why there was a star at the top? One reason could be representative of the star that the wise men followed; I’d like to offer up another one.

1. The tree of life

What if that’s God at the top and we start out our Christian lives following Him from the bottom of the tree? It’s pretty hard to climb a tree isn’t it? You have to step on branches and work against gravity to get up the tree. Compare gravity to the advice the world gives us and what it tells us to do (ie fulfill our fleshly desires, follow our hearts) and branches as events, people, passions, hobbies, and objects placed in our lives.

As we go along, God gives us branches to step on momentarily while we pursue Him to know Him more. But then we stop and think in our foolish minds: “It’s quite a bit easier just to step out on a branch and walk along it for awhile”. Here’s the problem, once you walk out even a little bit on that branch, you can’t look up and see God as well as before; there are other branches blocking your view; you might be able to see part of Him-until you get even farther along that branch. Additionally, it makes it nearly impossible to progress towards God if you aren’t climbing towards Him-it’s dangerous and difficult to jump from one branch to the other. Doing such a jump as this can cause us to fall off the tree completely. Additionally, it’s very dangerous to go out on a branch too far, otherwise, the branch will break under your weight and you will fall.

When we are in following Christ to know Him more, we are given branches as steps to get closer to Him. We need to recognize and appreciate these branches God has placed in our lives, but He never intends us to step out and actually walk on the branch he has intended for us to step on with one foot, maybe two.

2. The tree of life in our lives

New age belief and moralistic thematic deism assume that we will be able to get closer to God in different ways, but these ways require jumping from branches. Think of these branches as excuses and easy ways out of not pursuing God. They can seem inherently good but can ultimately lead to death.

Here’s a classic example: health and well-being. Inherently, this is an excellent thing to apply to your life, but don’t let it become a branch. If you tread too far out on the branch, you will keep striving for the next step to reach perfection in human form and will never reach it; also, you won’t be growing closer to God. Often we can’t see that the branch has an end so we keep walking it. Also, branches are pretty hard to walk on alone aren’t they? Think about trying to keep your balance-it’s nearly impossible unless you go on your hands and knees and give everything you’ve got. We may not have gravity against us, but that ends up being harder, because we don’t have the trunk to hold on to.

The biggest problem is all of us want progress. So we make this branch even more of our life, afraid to step back to the trunk of the tree, not realizing that the greatest progress we can make in our life is to make Him increase and us decrease (John 3:30-It seems like I’m putting this verse in every blog post…)

3. Biblical relations

This analogy of a tree helped me better understand the narrow gate leading to heaven that Jesus speaks about in Matthew 13-14. Truly, it is much easier to go off on a branch and focus on that than on something we can’t physically see. Just look at all of the instances in the Old Testament where people make statues their gods just so they can see them. Every Christian faces branches; in fact, we all have had a skewed view of God at some point because of going too far on a branch and not being able to see God (the star at the top of the tree) through the other branches.

If we are climbing towards God, He will give us branches to step on and support us as we climb closer to Him. We should appreciate and acknowledge these branches He gives us! Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things” (the Gentiles seek) “shall be added to you.”

In Ecclesiastes, we are told even more directly to appreciate these things.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20: 18 Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. 19 As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.

The things that distract us from God are innumerable. It could be argued that anything in this world other than God is a branch, only meant to be stepped on with one foot-two feet at the most. It’s no wonder Jesus said to enter by the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14). It’s difficult to climb against gravity, keeping are focus on God even when we step on branches that are so easy to step off on and take the easy way out. Thankfully, God gives us a plan laid out in The Bible so that we can focus on Him alone; it’s not easy to climb a tree.

Matthew 7:13-14: 13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because[a] narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

4. Navigating the tree

So how do we navigate this tree trunk with branches you ask? Read the Word that God has given us through Jesus Christ and follow Him. The surefire way to navigate this path is to read The Bible, given to us by God Himself. Following other things, even if you are focusing on a famous pastoral figure, will be tainted by sin, which is why it’s good to keep our gaze heavenward. (1 Corinthians 4:18)

Stepping off our stool to shed our old wineskin, often

Image

Many people come to churches, fellowship, and small groups in hopes of getting only encouragement and no down time, negativity, or humility. It’s as if we come to church, fellowship, and small groups on a pride stool and are reluctant to let ourselves be pushed off of it, although God really wants us to get off. (1 Peter 5:5-6: “…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time)

It’s much easier to walk down from our pride stool than be pushed off by others.

  1. Humility (Luke 18:14: “…for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”)

Humility is the act of having an accurate view of one’s self. Of course, the official dictionary definition is having a low view of one’s self, but when you are comparing yourself to God (instead of other people-1 Corinthians 10:12) you get humbled and, therefore, have an accurate view of yourself.

You are nothing compared to God; this is the realization we must be reminded of often in order to get ourselves off of the pride stool and the part of us that tells us we are doing an excellent job at being a Christian, because none of us are, compared to the life Jesus lived (See recent post: It’s a dog eat dog world, be a sheep!). It is primarily, and I would argue only, through this breaking down process that He can increase while we decrease (John 3:30). For how can we decrease without first getting down from our pride stool?

Just look at the prayer Jesus would rather have from us in Luke 18:9-14.

Image

2. Why Confession?

Confession allows us to reflect upon the sin we have in our lives and realize what we still have yet to deny ourselves in and choose God’s path instead.

Think of it this way, every time we confess and make ourselves lowly compared to God (and regain this accurate view of ourselves), we shed our old ‘wineskin’ and put on a new one. (Matthew 9:17)(Of course, I’m using a different use of the analogy than Jesus did-His was in regards to practices in the Old Testament to the New Testament)

If you went through every Sunday, quiet time, prayer, or fellowship opportunity holding onto your old wineskin (or old ways), then you would be putting new wine(God’s Word/plan/the Holy Spirit) into an old wineskin; the wineskin will break and everything new you learned in service or reading the Bible won’t stick with you-it’ll spill out.

Image

Why? Because we selfishly hold onto the things that we don’t want to give up to God. We want to grow closer to God without having to compensate-but it’s unrealistic and nearly impossible. After all, Jesus said we must give up all to follow Him (Luke 9:23-24).

The more we confess, the better, because we will then make ourselves (and our fleshly desires) lower. For when we are weak, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 13:9)

We must shed our old ‘wineskin’ whenever we are spending time with God. Ultimately, we want Him to fill us up with His Word and Holy Spirit and not take Him in while we are holding on to our old ways.

3. Optimistics in danger

There is a danger to be aware of. When we are optimistic, we often assume we are good people and don’t need to shed our old ways. This is entirely wrong. We are not good people when we compare ourselves to God (see post: It’s a dog eat dog world, be a sheep!) Think about if you put even the slightest amount of poison in the new wine you got. It would taint the wine and the wineskin. This is why we must shed our wineskin often. Unless we haven’t sinned in the past week, or day, or hour, then we need to shed our wineskin to be filled with the spiritually new wine that God gives through fellowship, prayer, the Word, and other believers.

It’s a dog eat dog world out there, be a sheep!

Image

1. Idea

If you’ve come across this saying, many have, you may not think about it at first; but this saying is very detrimental to us. If you tell yourself this saying, you are likely to turn out like a dog. No one wants to hire a dog. If you look at the world as someone that is happily anxious to meet other people doing better than you and in your same profession so you can learn from them, then you will not act like a dog and your colleagues will be more likely to refer to you as a sub for them or even to take their job, especially in the music world. If you get the dog eat dog mindset, you will constantly be set on being better than the other person in a demeaning way (like eating them…), rather than actually getting to know them as a friend to the point where they would teach you their knowledge, give you their job, or recommend you for a job. We must admit that we have a lot to learn from people that are better than us at something and that there is always someone better than us. We need to keep that mindset.

2. Biblical relation

Jesus speaks particularly to this worldly saying (it’s a dog eat dog world out there) in Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

Additionally, Paul is in support of this mindset of humility. Philippians 2:3: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

Also, remember the story about the disciples disputing along the road which of them would be the greatest in Mark 9:33-35: 33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. 35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”

3. Application

Lets think about this from a musician’s perspective. Bob is the best trumpet player in his high school. He’s a senior, is skilled at soloing, sight reading, and playing high notes. So he doesn’t practice, because he is already the best, but what if he started comparing himself to some of the greatest trumpeters who ever lived? It would make him realize he needed to practice, probably, for the rest of his life!

Similarly, we need to do so in work, sports, practicing, eating, health, and our relationship with our Triune God. We aren’t the best in the world at our jobs or skills-we have strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, we aren’t perfect Christians by any means compared to God. Since God wants us to have the mindset of fixing our eyes solely on Him (just look at Hebrews 12:1-2: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”) and not comparing ourselves with people who are running the race while we are running it, we need to follow through with that in our jobs, skills, and other competitive aspects as well. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

There is a danger of relating to others to the point that it is unhealthy. To the point where we are comparing ourselves to others’ lives rather than comparing ourselves to God; which, in turn, humbles us to God and causes us to realize our unworthiness of Him. Often, we want to compare ourselves with people we can physically interact with, but comparing ourselves to God is what He intends for us. After all, if I am only comparing myself to a worldly figure, there is only so much I can grow until I get to his level spiritually; which is ultimately tainted by sin.

4. Conclusion

Let’s bring this mindset to everything-the workforce, practicing, eating, running, sports, etc-because we’re never going to be the very best, although we should strive for it in a healthy way; realizing that God wants to help us grow. Only God is the best. When I get to heaven, I’ll realize God Himself is the best bassist. Regardless of if we become ‘the best’ from the world’s standpoint, we will never be perfect at our job or skills we have.

PS: Dog is the opposite of God. (God spelled backwards) 😉

God and nutrition pt III: What God can do > what we can do

Image

*Don’t read this until you’ve read part I and II and sat on it for a few days*

My guess is that after reading part I and II most people feel convicted and that they need to do something about their diet; which is good. We must learn to find peace in the continual pursuit of God, knowing that we will never be perfected until we enter heaven’s gates.

1. Stories

A famous nutritionist named Dr. Weil once went on vacation to Europe. He arrived very late at night, way past his bed time. When he walked in the place he was staying, they had thrown a party for him with fancy meats and cheeses He was so cooped up in his health that he went straight to bed without eating (since he had applied not eating late to his diet). When he woke up the next morning, he realized everyone at the party, despite their lack of sleep and poor dietary choices, had much more energy than he did. Dr. Weil was wiped despite the amount of sleep he got.

I had a similar experience not too long after hearing this story; only mine was for an extended period of time. I traveled to Oklahoma for about a week; eating, compared to what I normally eat, horribly. White bread, refried beans, cheese, fries, tots, eggs, bacon, cookies. I was fully expecting to feel horrible that week, as I normally do eating those foods. Additionally, I didn’t get a lot of exercise, played video games, got less than 7 hours of sleep a night, and watched movies. But something special happened. In being around my cousins for that long in fellowship, something trumped the food/exercise aspect of my health. My blood pressure had become a lot lower than before and I had the most energy I remember having, ever; despite getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night, eating horribly, and not exercising.

2. The Biblical aspect

In Luke: 10:7-8, Jesus tells the disciples when they go into a house that welcomes them “…remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.” We see in our own lives that this is more respectful and less damaging to relationships.

In 1 Corinthians brings up a few points relating exactly to this situation. In 1 Corinthians 10:31-33, Paul says 31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” Additionally, he says in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 Paul says “22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” 

When we are in fellowship with one another, admonishing each other and building each other up towards Christ, something special happens; and it is better than anything we can do of ourselves. We are additionally reminded in Colossians 28-29, we must preach Him,warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” 

3. Social vs nutrition

The nutritional aspect of all of this should be second to admonishing one another and building each other up in Christ, as I learned from being in Oklahoma, but it must be consciously thought of. What if I had been eating healthily in Oklahoma in addition to being in fellowship?

When we are going through are day to day lives, we must be consciously aware of our state:our energy level based on how much sleep we get and what we are putting into our bodies. In Exodus, God gives His people dietary guidelines so they won’t get sick.

We don’t think about this anymore, we often say “Father, why have you brought this sickness upon me?” when it is in fact our own selfish doing: eating what we crave rather than what our bodies need. James 1:14-15 reminds us: :“…each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when his desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.” It’s pretty scary that when we are drawn to things we know are bad for us, we develop cravings for them, and they become a reliance in our lives.

Many people I know are Diet Coke addicts, but Christ should be the only reliance for us in our lives. Isn’t drinking coke regularly the same as being drug addict? It’s doing something for our bodies that seems good in the moment but is bad for us in the long run? Research shows that having one beer a day is much healthier than having a coke a day. “but wait a sec, alcohol is a drug, right?” yep. Pretty weird that soda is worse for us than drugs eh?

Sorry, I had to give a soda rant at some point.

Based on modern day science, the modern food pyramid sits at the top of this article. This is one that Dr. Fuhrman has promoted. It’s certainly made a difference in my energy level and overall health.

4. Conclusion

So let us not be gluttonous, be consciously aware of what things in our bodies are doing to us, and realize that God’s work and blessing to us in discipling and fellowship are greater than what we can do in our diet. This gives us no less of a reason to eat the best we can so that the Holy Spirit can work through us to the most potential; for if we don’t have energy to do God’s work, we are obviously not living up to our potential in Christ (not that we will ever reach it in our fleshly imperfect bodies).

So as a challenge for the rest of our lives, let us admonish each other and build each other up, being the best vessels we can through Christ Jesus. Ultimately, it is only with God’s help that we can curb our cravings and fleshly desires for foods that don’t benefit us; and truly, He, and the Holy Spirit’s work through us, is the biggest motivation for us doing so.

Imagine what God can do through us if we become healthier vessels with more energy; that are happier, living longer, and spending (an average of) $175,000 less on health care. Be aware that you have enemies in this world that seek for you to have poor health: just about every food advertisement on television.

P.S. Don’t go completely vegan: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/girlfriend-from-super-size-me-ditches-veganism/