Defeating the Bad Guys

Many people seem to think mankind is under some sort of progressive march unto perfecting ourselves. Then, you look around and realize little has changed from the time Cain killed Abel until now.  You don’t need to search far to realize that evil is still rampant in our world.  Violence, genocide, and injustice seem to be out of control, and it’s hard to know how we should respond.

Sad

Should we go into an all out war to destroy ISIS?  How do we deal with violence against the police as well as unwarranted violence by the police?  What should we do to combat the real problem of domestic violence in the NFL and elsewhere?  How do we combat all the atrocities going on in the Middle East, North Korea, Africa, and even in our own country?

These are serious questions I certainly don’t have any answers to.  I do know it’s been hard to watch all that’s been going on, and the temptation to pretend like my sinfulness is somehow acceptable in comparison is getting harder and harder to resist.

So what can we do to productively help those in need and bring those responsible to justice?  I want to share a few points I believe the Bible gives us to help…

1)  Trust God to avenge

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.'”–Romans 12:19

Far too often, we as Christians like to think of God simply as being kind and loving, but it’s important to remember that part of God’s love also includes his desire for justice, which often involves the easily misunderstood concept of His wrath.  God cannot tolerate sin, and He promises to cast His wrath upon all those who violate His good and perfect will.  It’s our job to trust Him to do just that–without unnecessarily getting in the way.

2)  Repent of our own sinfulness

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”–Romans 3:23

Understanding the fact that God pours out His wrath against all those who sin means it’s vitally important we don’t see ourselves as perfect “saints” who are somehow better than those around us.  Rather, we need to understand we are all broken and deserve God’s wrath.  Therefore, rather than being quick to judge others’ imperfections, we first must address our own by confessing our sins, repenting of those sins, and addressing the needs of others with an empathetic, caring attitude that’s looking to help and build up–not to judge and degrade.

3)  Pray

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

It may sound simple, but perhaps the most powerful thing we can do to combat the injustices on earth is to pray.  Pray for those who are being abused, pray for those who are in positions to act against said abuse (political, military, etc), and EVEN pray for our enemies involved in the abuse.

The latter has been an especially difficult concept for me to grasp.  Why should I pray for those who are violently savaging against innocent people?  And the answer goes back to my first two points:  it’s God’s job to avenge and I am a sinner–similarly worthy of said vengeance!

Who knows, it is possible (and maybe even likely) that God will call us to do more.  But first we must pray, and then trust God to act!

-Brady

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

It’s a staple of due process in the American Judicial System:  all people are presumed innocent until they can be proven guilty.  Not only is it an important concept in the judicial system but also in everyday life.  For if someone accuses me of something, I expect them to be able to prove that I in fact did it before I’m going to willingly take accountability for it (unless I know I did it of course).  I’m thankful this is the way we operate in America because it’s the best way we can pursue justice in a broken world.

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Although this is the best way we humans can enforce justice between each other on earth, I think it’s important we recognize this should not be our viewpoint in how we relate with the Holy God of the Universe…

Many of us have bought into the lie that we are entitled to God and the benefits that come from knowing Him just because we are “good people.”  By the world’s standards, being a “good person” would seem to be adequate enough.  I mean, how can God possibly not accept us if we’re innocent of all the MAJOR offenses? In our eyes, we’re innocent until God can prove us guilty of something truly “heinous.”

This line of thinking is backwards however.  For “heinous” in our eyes (on a human-to-human level) is wholly different than what God’s view of heinous is.  For in our view, we all could be deemed “heinous” (for we all offend and hurt each other on some level) AND AT THE SAME TIME we could all be deemed “good” (for we all were created in God’s perfect image and do some level of goodness to one another).

Where do we draw the line?

The Bible tells us ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3: 23) and none of us deserve to be in communion with Him (Romans 6: 23) .  Thus, we are all already GUILTY before God and there’s nothing we can do in our guilty state to change that by our own power (Ephesians 2: 1-10).

God is holy and pure, and because He is holy and pure, He cannot even look upon sin and evilness (Habakkuk 1: 13).

Thus, the question of “How can a loving God send ‘innocent’ people to hell?”  is totally backwards and misleading–for God cannot even look upon the guilty and none of us are innocent!

The real question then is “How can a perfect and holy God allow guilty people into Heaven?”

For we are all guilty.  We don’t deserve God.  We all deserve hell…

But thankfully, that’s when God’s love and compassion comes in.  For He loves and cares about us so much that He doesn’t end the story there!  Rather He came down to earth Himself–through His Son Jesus Christ–to cleanse us from all guilt, from all sinfulness, and from all shame, so that we might be called INNOCENT in His eyes forevermore (John 3: 16)!

“Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved…—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2: 3-8)

It’s not enough to just know about this great gift, however.  We must respond to it with a repentant heart, a faithful spirit, and a humble attitude (Romans 10: 9).  Only then are we given the privilege of coming into relation with Him.

And nothing compares to the greatness of that…

-BH

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James’ Golden Nuggets

Earlier today, I was reading what possibly could be my favorite book of the Bible–James.  I don’t know why, but for some reason the words spoke to my heart more than usual this morning and I found myself rereading the text multiple times to really allow it to sink in.  Upon my last reading, I decided to make a list of all the great things James encourages us to do and decided to highlight three of them for me to focus on during this coming week.

Below is my chronological list (with the three I’m going to be focusing on in ALL CAPS).  My hope is that you would look through my list, read through James intently, and then read back through my list and pick a couple of truths for yourself to focus on as a Christian.  Hopefully, we all can grow a little closer to God and be able to improve as doers of His will through this process…

Teachings of James:

-know that trials produce perseverance and that perseverance produces maturity

-ask of God with belief

-take pride in humble circumstances

-know every good and perfect gift is from above

-be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger

-don’t just listen to the Word, but do what it says

-keep a tight rein on your tongue

-look after orphans and widows in distress

-keep yourself from being polluted by the world

-don’t show favoritism

-love your neighbor as yourself

-be merciful–mercy triumphs over judgment

-complete good deeds in humility–they come from wisdom

-DO NOT HARBOR ENVY OR SELFISH AMBITION IN YOUR HEART

-submit yourself to God

-resist the devil and he will flee from you

-COME NEAR TO GOD AND HE WILL COME NEAR TO YOU

-humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up

-do not slander one another or judge your neighbor

-do the good you ought to do

-be patient and stand firm

-don’t grumble against each other

-know the Lord is a full of compassion and mercy

-do not swear

-PRAY

-sing songs of praise

-pray for the sick

-confess your sins and pray for each other so that you may be healed

-know the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective

 

I hope you were able to find a couple of truths to focus on this week.  May it be a challenge and an encouragement to you as we all continuously seek the Lord together!

-BH

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The Sure Step to Success

In our culture being “successful” goes hand in hand with the American Dream.  To be successful means our lives were well-lived, we took advantage of all the gifts and opportunities presented to us, and that we accomplished all we were meant to accomplish.

There’s been countless books and proposals written on how one can achieve success.  Many of them talk about working hard, having a good attitude, being determined, and overcoming failures.  All of which are good and noble qualities that we should all long to practice.  However, I believe these traits miss the mark when it comes to assuring we live a “successful” life.

What if I worked as hard as I possibly could, had a great attitude, was determined to achieve my goals, and even overcame a few failures, and still didn’t measure up to what the world’s standard for success is?

What if I tried my best and gave it everything I had to “become somebody” and at the end of my life, my goal of being that “somebody” wasn’t reached?

What if I did all that the books, mentors, and motivational speakers told me to do and it still wasn’t enough?

The fact is success in the world’s eyes is something none of us can obtain completely on our own.  We can do everything in our power to be successful and still fall short simply because of bad breaks, unfortunate circumstances, or the possibility that we “don’t know the right people.”

Thankfully, being a true success is contingent on any of these things!

“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”–Jeremiah 9: 23-24

This verse tells us what true success is–knowing God!  To know God is greater than having a ton of wisdom, power, or riches.  To know God means we can understand and share in the things God delights in–love, justice, and righteousness.  To know God means we get to love and be loved with the One who created and is sovereign over all.  To know God means we have life eternal in His love and the love of others.  And the best part of it all?  It’s a free gift to anyone who desires it!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”–Ephesians 2: 8-9

Yes we should work hard, have great attitudes, be determined, and overcome failures, but those things don’t make you a success.  All you need to be a success in this life is to do one thing:  know God!

If you know God and sincerely follow Him then your life will be well-lived, you’ll take advantage of all the opportunities God brings to you, and you’ll accomplish all you’re meant to accomplish in this life!

By following God, you may get a great job, have a great family, get lots of money, and use those things to honor Him (equaling obvious success).  Or you may not have or ever receive ANY of those things, yet you STILL are successful because you know and follow the Sovereign Lord of all!

C.S. Lewis said it best when he said, “He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only.”

Do you feel like you’re a failure?  Not achieving enough?  Not accomplishing all the things you want to accomplish in life?

Maybe it’s time to lay down your own expectations of success and find refuge in the fact God loves you, has a plan for you, and wants you to achieve GREAT things in your life–even if it’s not what you expect it to be.

Rather we have much or little, let’s all be thankful that if we simply know God and put our trust in Him, we are all a success despite whatever else happens in our lives!

-BH

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In Money I Trust?

My schedule has been super busy and hectic this past month as I’ve learned how this whole house buying/budgeting process works, but the biggest thing I’ve learned from it is how dangerous and enticing the love of money can be.

In the past (while I’ve provided for just myself in fairly cheap rent scenarios), I’ve always felt super comfortable with my finances and was able to live “comfortably” when it came to money.  It was easy to give to my church because it really didn’t “cost” me much.  I had plenty, was spending little, and had no reason not to give.  I was like the rich people Jesus described in the following scenario…

“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.  Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.'”–Mark 12: 41-44

Now that I’ve got a mortgage of my own, the temptation to hoard whatever money is left for myself has become all the more real.  It’s not so easy to give to my church and to others now that I have a much tighter budget and begin thinking about the demands of having a family of my own someday.

The situation has caused a little anxiety for me and I’ve wasted lots of time over the last month worrying about it–even though I have little reason to be!

God has always provided for me and my family throughout the entirety of my life.  Whether our money scenario was going really well or trending down, God’s always given us what we needed and then some.

I don’t know why I haven’t handled all this better.  For God promises that He’ll provide everything I need no matter what my financial situation is.  I was reading in Matthew this past week, when I came over this passage.  I’ve heard it a thousand times throughout my life, but after this past month, it really spoke to me like never before.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”–Matthew 6:  25-34

Now God doesn’t promise in these verses to give me all I “want” necessarily, but He does promise to provide me with all that I need.  Therefore, as long as I’m smart, prayerful, and faithful with my finances, I need not worry!  Because worrying about it leads to nothing but stress, selfishness, and greed…

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”– 1 Timothy 6: 10

I don’t want to pierce myself with griefs that don’t matter–it’s not like I can take any of my earthly possessions with me when I die!  Rather, I want to be pierced by the freedom that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, who provides so much more than this world has to offer.

Lord, help me give even when it’s not comfortable and easy.  Let me be more like the poor widow who had the faith and trust to give knowing You provide so much more…

-BH

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2013: The Year of Change

In this blog post I wrote back in May, I made the declaration that 2013 was the year of change for me and my family.  I discussed how much had already changed in my life from my family moving to Florida, my brother Daniel getting married, and several important people in my life moving away and doing new things.  And now, as 2013 winds down, I am completely flabbergasted at how much more significant and unexpected changes have occurred in my life since that post.  All of these changes started with a period of doubt and frustration and have ended up all working out better than I ever expected…

1)  A New Job

As the 2012/2013 school year ended back in May, I had an inkling in my spirit that God would provide a newer, more fulfilling career opportunity for me.  I had been teaching ISS for two full years and felt I had done all I was supposed to in that position.  Thus, I went into the summer expecting God to provide me with something more, and early on it seemed like that would come to fruition.  After a couple of very promising opportunities fell by the wayside, however, I began feeling impatient and frustrated with God’s lack of movement.  I even began foolishly contemplating a career outside of my true calling (in education) due to my frustration with God.

Thankfully, I didn’t make any rash or ill-advised decisions as God provided me with the perfect position of teaching Physical Education at a school that was a great fit for me at Manor Hill Elementary.  I have really loved getting to work with the kids, staff, and families at my new school, and couldn’t be more thankful for this exciting new change!

2)  A New Relationship

Another area that I was getting frustrated by throughout most of this year was my inability to find that special romantic relationship with the right person in my life.  I had several opportunities to date some pretty awesome girls, but for one reason or another, they didn’t end up working out.  This brought on great frustration and confusion on what God had for me in this area.

Thankfully, over the last couple of months, I’ve been seeing a girl who has been a great fit for me.  She not only meets, but exceeds all the things I look for in a woman.  She brings a smile to my face every time I’m with her, and the only problem we’ve seemed to have so far is the whole “saying goodbye” process when we’re together (we hate saying goodbye!).  I don’t want to get ahead of myself or anything, because we obviously have a long way to go, but I’m very thankful that God has brought this special persion into my life and am excited to see where it leads!

3)  A New Home

One thing I knew I’d have to figure out this year is finding a new place to call home for myself.  With my family gone, I knew my time living in my parents’ old house was numbered and didn’t know exactly where I’d end up.  Thankfully, with the blessings my new job has given me, I found myself able to afford a house of my own for the first time in my life.  The process has been somewhat stressful yet exciting at the same time.  The first offer I made was on a brick house that seemed to be a good fit but thankfully didn’t work out, because eventually I found the perfect house for me on the south side of Liberty!  I’m scheduled to close on this house tomorrow and can’t wait to experience what memories God has for me in this new place going forward!

House

Obviously, God has been blessing me more than I’ve ever deserved lately.  I’m thankful that He’s been answering my prayers in such a positive way but am also curious to know how I would have responded if He didn’t…

What if God didn’t provide me a new career opportunity?  Would I still be praising His Name?

What if God didn’t provide me with a great new relationship?  Would I still be proclaiming His Greatness?

What if God didn’t allow me to find this awesome new house?  Would I still be trusting His Word?

My prayer and hope is that I would still be faithful no matter how God answered my prayers.  For whether He gives (as He has been lately) or He takes away (as He will eventually), God’s way is loving, perfect, and just, and He deserves my unwavering worship and praise no matter what situation I’m in.  As His Word says,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”–1 Peter 5:  6-7

Here’s to 2014:  May it be as memorable and full as 2013 (“the year of change”) was before it!

-BH

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