Monday, January 30, 2012

Comfort Food

I think most of us have heard the term “comfort food” you know the food we eat not because we need it but just because it makes us feel good. We don't really care what the food does for us internally, we just want that good feeling. Sometimes I think we look at scripture the same way. We read a verse and get this warm fuzzy feeling then go our way with out really thinking about what that scripture can do for us internally. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy feeling good as much as the next person. Nothing wrong with feeling good but many times we walk away with the temporary good feeling and never see the eternal depths of what the scripture says. The funny thing is that a lot of the time those depths are not hidden in some profound theological mystery but the words are right there as plain as day. This happened to me today. A friend posted a verse on Facebook, I stopped to read it and there it was that good feeling. Okay, feeling good, time to move on to the next thing on Facebook. Not sure what stopped me, maybe it was this verse that I had read many times before in a different version that I usually read. Could be my over active mind that likes to analyze everything. Most likely God saying slow down and listen for a minute. It was interesting that I didn't stop and meditate on the verse for a long period of time. I didn't beg God to open my eyes to see what it said. I simply stopped for a couple of minutes maybe three and I looked at what the words right there in front of me said. Here's the verse in the NIV.:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

My first thought as I was about to walk on with this good feeling was, did I hear what these words say? Not what is the deeper meaning here but what do the words right here say.

These are the things that I took a few minutes to consider.

  1. Am I convinced? Not much profound or deep about that, just a simple question.
  2. Nothing in death and nothing in life. Pretty much includes everything.
  3. Neither angels nor demons. No holy and good spiritual being or evil ones.
  4. Neither the present nor the future. My present and my future, already taken care of. Nothing that is happening and nothing that will happen.
  5. Neither height nor depth. Nothing that can be measured.
  6. Nor anything else in all creation. And if all the rest didn't cover it then it says nothing in creation which is everything besides God.
  7. Will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. What was that? Did it just say that after all these things that it named, which covered everything in the spiritual and physical worlds. None of them can separate us from the love of God. And God is love so it's saying that from the moment I was in Christ nothing could separate me from God because He can not be separate from His love.

I don't know about you but those thoughts give me much more than a good feeling. If I'm “convinced” then they bring peace on the inside deep in my soul. Even if I'm not “convinced” they still bring great hope in the midst of my doubt because my believing or doubting does not change the truth of the scripture. These verses do not cease to be true if I don't believe them.

It doesn't take a great mind or a “dizzying intellect” to see what these words say, only a few minutes and a listening ear.

Johnny

Friday, January 13, 2012

Magic Johnson, Tim Tebow, and Legalism

Greetings friends, 

Today, my heart is turned to an interesting topic in our religious world realm.  That much of what we call grace is really just another form of legalism.  Grace boasters boast in how graceful they are, Legalist boast in what they can do for God.  Both are just legalism. Today as you read Magic Johnson, Tim Tebow, and Legalism think about the rise and fall of Legalism in our society and how it affects even the most graceful people on earth.  The point is this, that grace does not mean much unless there is life driving it.

Magic Johnson

       In the 80's I love watching Magic Johnson play basketball.  I have never seen a presence on the basketball court like him.  He was not the fastest, most talented, and athletic player in the NBA that distinction went to the likes of Michael Jordan and Isaiah Thomas.  Why does Magic Johnson stand out amongst these players in the 80's?  I believe he stands out amongst this crowd due to one thing, AIDS.  During the 1980's AIDS became a prevalent as one of the worst diseases man has ever known.  I remember what I was doing the moment I heard about Magic Johnson having AIDS.  I was a young budding P.A. Announcer calling the 8th grade football game as a Senior in High School.  My buddy walks in and says, "I just heard on the radio that Magic has AIDS."  I remember turning to him and saying, "What? Magic?  AIDS?"  My first thought was, "Magic is a Homosexual?" No, he just could not say no to women.  It affected me, that news ruined my evening, why?  My hope that Magic was perfect was diminished by a lifestyle that he lived as a professional NBA player on the road.  During those days, I lived a Christian lifestyle (or should I say, "what i thought was a christian lifestyle.") in the eyes of most, I was a good kid.  I still had hope and belief that I could be better, that the gospel was going to be spread through me because I was going to go out and make a difference.  I believed I was going to do God's work and make Him better (I actually believed that!).  
        Magic Johnson, what is he doing today?  Magic has been the most successful AIDS survivor in history up to this point.   Magic today is in a group bidding for the right to own the Dodgers, Magic is featured on ESPN and other Sports network as a NBA Analyst.  Society has forgiven Magic Johnson for being an adulterer.  How graceful of a society to forgive Magic for screwing his neighbors wife.  How wonderful is it that Magic has been let off the hook?  I hated Magic Johnson, why?  How could he be so stupid for screwing it up so badly?  Magic was married with kids.  For a young teenager, that impacted me.  "I'll never be like that!"  Boasting that I would never be a sinner like that.  Little did I know that I was no different than Magic Johnson, no I have not slept with over 900 women, but my porn addiction was no different.  The following years after graduating High School and working on being a better Christian i.e., trying to perfect what God has already perfected through Christ.  The following system of belief existed in me, that it was my job to meet God half way, that I had to quit sinning, and that I had to read, pray, and evangelize to be accepted by God.
       Magic Johnson after making his AIDS announcement was forced to retire due to the fact that he might somehow transfer his AIDS to someone else if cut.  Magic then begin his tour of apologies hoping that society would somehow receive him back.  Eventually Magic would return but not without caution from other players, you see, Magic had to earn his way back in.  It was a legalist view of stepping back onto the hardwood.  The realization that Christians faced in those days was having to earn their way to heaven, sure, Christ death on the cross was for us but it was not the final cure.  I still have friends today who believe that we have to rid ourselves of sin.  Magic could not rid himself of AIDS, by the way America, he still has AIDS.  What has changed?

Tim Tebow

        America is in love with Tim Tebow today.  Why is America and ESPN so enamored with Tim?  Tim is a winner.  Tim has a comercial for an energy drink company where he tells the viewing audience that the critics said he would never win in high school, that he would never win in college, and that he would never be drafted in the first round.  Tim's response to that in the comercial is, "Thanks."  Tim a few years back creates a comercial for the superbowl that talks about how his mother made a decision to raise little Timmy against the doctors advice.  His mother chose life and look at him now.  Tim Tebow as a result has become a polarizing figure.  Tim in a Christian view point is the poster boy for being a role model, a christian, and living out faith.   Tim in a world view point is dangerous because he does not support abortion, he is a virgin, and has given his life over to a deity.
        Tim is starting to be mimicked by other young athletes and conservatives have taken Tim and boasted how good God is and his grace for sparing Tim.  Tim has become a god to young men who suite up on friday nights and saturday afternoons, a reason for young men to boast in their faith, and a reason for people to boast in Grace.  Tim is often questioned about this high responsibility in the eyes of America.  He understands his role and knows that he is on everyone's radar.
        The first time I heard about Tim Tebow was while I was leading worship for a baptist church in the Everglade community of Weston, FL.  A gator quarterback and a over all good kid.  I followed him because my wife's former boss is a huge gator fan and loved Tim Tebow.  During this time in my life, I was learning that the grace of God can also be abused as a means of legalism.  A book by Jerry Bridges named "The Discipline of Grace" was used as a means of talking about the grace of God.  Yes grace was free, but not without discipline.  We had to be discipline graceful Christians, thus, creating a mutated version of the legalist I already thought I had overcome.  God met me in those years while Tim Tebow was in college and reminded me that even grace pharisees exist.
        Did Tim Tebow ask for all of this attention?  Does Tim Tebow understand God's grace?  What is the difference between Tim Tebow and Magic Johnson? What is the difference between legalism and grace?  I tend to lean towards Tim not asking for all of this attention, but others would say if you are on the stage that he is on and he boast in his faith then he deserves this attention.  I believe that Tim at this point is knocking the ball out of the park when it comes to him being himself.  I believe that what you see is what you get.  His former coach, spoke of Tebow on an ESPN interview about Tim being authentic and morally good.  His former coach said, "What you see is what you get with Tim, He is a good looking guy, has many offers from girls, yet when it comes down to his lifestyle and what he believes, he is the genuine article."  Personally, whether or not Tim Tebow is the genuine article is not important, it is what he believes about himself when he goes to bed at night.   The re is no difference between Tim Tebow and Magic Johnson, both are Heroes in eyes of America and Tim has flaws just like Magic, and both are winners.  Tim's flaws are not on the evening news besides his inability to be a great pocket quarterback.  Grace boasters will use Tim Tebow as a means for us to be just like him.  I got news for you grace boasters in america, Tim Tebow is a terrible god, I am a terrible god, and you are a terrible god.

Legalism

        Legalism is an excessive view of law or formulas.  Legalism is created from legalist, these are people who make the law excessive and their relationship with God a bunch of formulas.  Tim Tebow may be a legalist, Magic Johnson may be a legalist, I may be a legalist, and you may be a legalist.  I have friends who have in recent times taken grace and have poured it into the pot of legalism and have disciplined themselves for the glory of God.  These friends are giving up their homes, jobs, and lives to fulfill the Un-American dream of spreading the gospel all over the world.  Can a legalist spread the gospel all over the world?  The answer to this question is one hundred percent yes.  Will a legalist feel better about themselves after spreading the gospel?  Yes.  Will a legalist still have problems after spreading the gospel all over the world?  Yes.  In the same tone, can a grace boaster spread the gospel all over the world?  Yes.  Will a grace boaster feel better about themselves after spreading the gospel all over the world?  Yes.  Will a grace boaster still have problems after spreading the gospel all over the world?  Yes.   What's the difference?  Both are legalist.  Both feel better about self.  Both still carry the flesh.  What then keeps us from being grace boasters and Legalist?  not being just hearers of the word, but doers of the word.  The difference between hearers and doers:  Magic Johnson is a hearer.  Magic heard about AIDS but did nothing to stop himself from contracting it, thinking I can do it and not get in trouble.  Tim Tebow is a doer of the Word.  Tim Tebow knows that he could have any girl on the face of planet earth and achieve the great accomplishment of sleeping with 900 women, the difference is that he has heard the devastating truths of HIV AIDS and is walking the path saying I cannot do it, I have to rely on someone else. Can a person who lives out of life spread the gospel?  Yes. Will a person who spreads the gospel out of life want the attention?  No.  Will a person who spreads the gospel out of life still have problems afterwards? Yes.  Living out of life is not based on hearing alone, it is based around doing what you hear God calling you too. It doesn't matter where you go to spread the gospel, it matters if you spread the gospel out of life.  You may boast about spreading the gospel in a foreign country for 6 weeks, but unless there is life behind what you are doing, then it is no different than being a legalist or a grace boaster spreading the gospel.
       Magic Johnson, Tim Tebow, and Legalism all point to the something, how you choose to live is not my business.  I can only hope in one thing, Christ crucified, the finished work of the cross, and I cannot meet that standard alone I have to live out of his life.  Magic is a victim of hearing and not doing, Tebow is a victim of hearing and doing (which is why he defies the odds, it is living out of life saying I can't do this.), and I just want to live out of life as I'm sure you do, as I'm sure Magic does, and as I'm sure Tim does.  How you view life will answer that question.

- Jason

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