Friday, April 17, 2009

The Father's Grace To A Wayward Child

Christianity has always played a pivotal role in my life. My parents were very faithful and committed to raising my two brothers and me with the knowledge and understanding of the Christian faith. Growing up, my family faithfully attended a local Baptist church where my mother was the organist and my father was the mission’s director. Not only did my brothers and I learn the essentials of the Christian faith in the Baptist church, we learned much by attending the Christian school that was affiliated with the church. Although for years it seemed that our family spent every day either at the church or the school; it would not be until 1994, when I was sixteen that I would come to the realization that I needed Christ as my Savior during a revival.

The revival was nothing new, the church had many in the past; however, this revival proved to be something different--something that would ultimately change my life forever. I do not exactly remember the particular theme the evangelist was preaching on or exactly what he said; but something, right in the middle of his message, triggered a burst of guilty emotions within me. Instantly, my heart started pounding, to the point where it felt like it was going to burst out of my chest; and right then and there, at that very moment, the Holy Spirit came over me, and I knew I needed the salvation of Christ--so, I bowed my head, prayed to the Lord, confessed my sins, and asked Jesus to forgive me and save me. Right after my prayer, my guilty emotions and pounding heart went to unspeakable feelings of peace and joy--no doubt that the Spirit of Jesus Christ came to live within my soul that night.

The first two years after my salvation where relatively good years; however, I was walking weak in my relationship with Jesus Christ--not praying and seeking the Lord’s guidance as I should. I truly believe, due to my lack of strength in my Christian walk, Satan saw an opportunity to deceive me and manipulate me down a road to where the glorious light of Christ’s beauty is only seen in the distance. The start of my troubles came about in the summer of 1995 just before my senior year in high school--wrong influences coupled with bad choices started to manifest in my life. Although these manifestation where the roots of my soon to be rebellious attitude; it was the very places that I knew as security that would draw out my rebellion to a destructive level--the church and the school.

When my senior year started, it seemed from the first day I could not stay out of trouble. My troubles my senior year were not really related to breaking the rules, but having a certain attitude about myself that the school faculty felt was not appropriate for one of their students, especially, a student from the church. There were two major situations that happened that year in which feelings of getting a raw deal by the school faculty transpired; and in turn, brought on internal feelings of betrayal towards the very people who I thought were suppose to guide and direct, and demonstrate compassion and thoughtfulness the most. Both situations turned out to be very damaging at the time; and in all, worked to develop much resentment within me

After graduation, the wounds of resentment towards the church and the school grew into destructive bitterness, pride, and rebellion--my attitude was, “I can do whatever I want and no one has authority over me.” Needless to say, that rebellious attitude lead me deeper down the road away from Christ, where for nine years (1996-2005) “all the wrong things” were controlling my life; however, the Holy Spirit did not lose fight in His conviction in my life; but sadly, instead of listening, I just ran to anything that would take the convictions away.

Throughout those nine years of “doing things my way” rather than God’s, I was progressively drifting into a world that is not of God--where self indulgence is the function of living, self denial justifies the living, and self destruction is the means to the end. However, in the mist of my wayward years, the Lord showed His love towards me by blessing me with a beautiful wife and three wonderful boys--clearly something I did not deserve. Even though the blessing of having a family helped to slow down my self destructive ways, I still proceeded with them, but in more secretive ways. Every day, I did my best to cover up what I was actually doing behind the scenes; I may have looked good and in control on the surface, but behind the scenes, I was truly wicked and out of control. Throughout the years of living an act started to rub off on me, soon denial set in, to the point, that I never realized my lie was destroying everything around me, including my own precious family. However, in one night, by hitting rock bottom, God in His love and mercy would take my hand and guide me out of my denial sinful state, and turn me back into His right direction.

It was the fall of 2005; I just finished my evening college class. A few of my fellow students were planning an evening out on the town; at first, I was reluctant to go, but in my state of mind, I ignored my thoughts and went out with them anyways. Eventually, I came home that night, around 3 o’clock in the morning--staggered through the front door and my wife looked at me and said “Get out; I am through with you…” Needless to say, this was not the first time I did this, but my wife made sure that night was officially the last time. The next day, while at work, a thought hit me, “What am I doing, I am destroying my family--I just need to stop this…” and then, I heard a still small voice that was not my own say, "Turn around Tim, and come back to Me."

Six months had passed since that day at work; the spring of 2006 just started. Thankfully, after much convincing and follow through in cleaning up my act, my wife forgave me; however, no matter how cleaned up my life was at the time, a very important decision was still needed to be made. A married couple, who were our neighbor’s, came over one day and invited us to their church; it was an interesting thing I thought at the time, my wife and I were previously talking about starting to go to church any ways (no coincident that God was surely working through our neighbors) so the next Sunday we went to our neighbor’s church. We faithfully started attending the church thereafter, but on one particular Sunday, while listening to the sermon, my heart once again began to heavily pound, and I heard that still small voice again telling me, “Turn around Tim, and come back to Me.” And without hesitation, I prayed, cried out to my Savior to forgive me my wrongs and take me back--though now I know, He never let go.

That day, I will never forget--my life once again found peace and joy; and along with making that decision, many glorious things soon transpired in my life. Although my family no longer attends our neighbor’s church, we have since found a great home church these last two years, which has helped my wife, my children, and I gain a much closer walk with Jesus Christ. Moreover, the Lord has blessed me with the abilities to serve Him by encouraging others in whatever their needs through my writings and my music in glorifying His kingdom.

I do not look at my testimony as one to brag about; I took the back road in finding myself as a Christian. My wish is that other Christians, both young and old, will not go through what I did to find clarity, and the best Christian walk is a continuous steadfast walk with Jesus Christ--never wavering to allow the advisory to deceive and manipulate. I was weak by not properly pursuing the recourses that God has giving us to gain strength in Him. In my weakness, pride, bitterness, anger, and self indulgence manifested a wicked life of denial and deceit which almost destroyed me. My testimony speaks of weakness and shame; but more importantly, it speaks of the saving grace, the enduring love, and the protection that our Heavenly Father has to His children--even to a wayward child.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Creation: Thinking Outside The Box

Old Earth creationists, who believe that the physical universe is approximately 4.5 billion years old and Young Earth creationists, which believe that the physical universe is approximately 7,000 years old, are in a pointless debate by not thinking outside of their box. Although there is huge gap between their two earth age beliefs, I believe both are right. The differences between them are essentially based on their interpretation of the Genesis account of creation; however, both find commonality in their in belief in God and The Bible. Old Earth suggests that based on the known physical evidence, the six day account of Creation in Genesis chapter one is merely an analogy or metaphor to simplify God's creation process in terms that all can understand. Young Earth suggests that based on the Bible being God's Holy Word, the Genesis six-day account is the literal truth--no ifs, ands, or buts. Each side has their strong points and each have their loop holes among the details, but I will not be explaining each their own details of argument; plus, I will not be making any statements about Evolution--the specific details and Evolution serves no purpose to this hypothesis.

I thought of an analogy which I believe helps in understanding this hypothesis, though the relationship will come later:

You rent a movie which is three hours long; however, your DVD player for whatever reason starts the movie in fast forward; and then, just after the two hour brink, it finally stops and starts playing in real time--so, instead of watching a three hour, you just watch an hour movie. Now, due to the failure of your DVD player in playing properly, has the three-hour movie become an hour movie? Of course not--it's still a three-hour movie no matter what your DVD player did. Although you did not see the complete details of the first two hours, you did gain glimpses or evidence of facts, which support the three-hour length of the movie.

Hypothesis Explained

The Bible, time after time, gives accounts of how God worked and moved among mankind within the realm of the physical--great example, "The Six Days of Creation" in Genesis. In the most simple of times, mankind understood that when the sun goes up, a day is beginning; and when the sun goes down, a day is ending--all of mankind in any era, with or without technology, can universally understand that. This universal understanding of "sun up, sun down" equals a day is exactly why God through the writer of Genesis (Moses?) wrote the beginning of the universe in a six-day event. Now, was/is God lying or tricking mankind to believe that He created the universe in six days, when He actually didn‘t? Not at all, God would never do or allow such a thing--God is holy, He cannot lie. However, if the six days of creation is how He did it, it brings out an important question, “Why God chose to stay simple in the creation explanation rather then reveal the mysteries to give us no debate?” Well, the answer is quite simply: God never intended the Bible to be a scientific book. Throughout the Bible, there are several stories, which obviously lack or leave out the details, but the point wasn’t the details, the point was the overall message of the story--details would only distract away for the pivotal message. God did not intend for us to discover the details of His creation process through the Bible; He simply wanted us to know WHO created the universe, not how He did it.

Now we are in the modern age, where mankind has grown vastly within the realm of technology and science. Mankind has developed machines, computers, chemicals, and various scientific methods and processes, which have given us much insight and evidence to the “why’s” of our universe and planet. Through growth in archeology, geology, and science, mankind has discovered various elements, objects, and artifacts; and have developed test, such as Carbon Dating, which has a relatively low error results, to test age. Therefore, it did not take long to have official documented, tested, and analyzed support for an Old Earth hypothesis.

We hear much about "The Evolutionist vs. The Creationist," but what we don't hear often is the debate that exists among the Creationists--a debate rarely heard of, but it is bigger than most think. Young Earth supporters quickly attack any scientific experiments or discovered facts that may jolt the Biblical Creation account; and suggest they are unreliable, fakes, or misunderstandings. In addition, the foundation behind the Young Earth argument is that the Genesis Creation account is straight from the Bible; therefore, God does not lie, it's truth; and to think anyway else; is believing a “dangerous lie.” Old Earth supporters, however, do not deny the Biblical account of the six days of creation; they suggest, as I stated earlier, the Genesis account is an analogy or metaphor to give a simple understanding to complex process. They support this claim either by blaming bad translation from original text; but mainly, the support lies within modern scientific and geological evidence.

So, which is it--Old Earth or Young Earth? Well, as I stated previously, I believe both sides have it right. Here’s the thing, God is a supernatural being, everything infinite and eternal--physical time and natural limitation have no barring on Him. However, God created humans just the opposite, everything finite wrapped with natural limitation, where physical time is a major function in the life process. The knowledge of time is often taken for granted by most of us; but if you think about it, our whole existence, day in day out, is consumed by it.

The infinite wisdom and power of God made it possible for early man to understand creation--through Scripture. Likewise, the infinite wisdom and power of God made it possible for modern man to gain an even deeper understand of creation--through Scripture and scientific evidence. God has always worked within humanity and around humanity in natural logical way, though at times He comes to us in unnatural ways; but so often, He comes in natural and logical ways to give understanding--as He created us rational and logical beings.

God created His physical universe in six literal human days--all of mankind can universally understand that; and yet, maintains His eternal truthfulness. Furthermore, the process in which God created the physical universe in the six literal human days has been proven logically by scientific evidence to take 4.5 billion years; and yet, it still maintains the eternal truthfulness of God. How is this? We as finite humans often fail to understand that an infinite supernatural God is not restricted or held down by our physical human limitation. God did it His way, but did in a way, that makes logical and physical sense to all of humanity--speaks to the timelessness of the Bible and the perfect wisdom of God.

In other words, God’s time process is not within the scope of human time, we have much evidence that supports a literal human 4.5 billion year creating process, but Almighty God accomplishes that literal process in six literal human days. The Genesis account is not a lie, analogy, or metaphor--it’s Almighty God working within the premises of human logic, time, and understanding

In conclusion, going back to my “three hour movie” analogy, it would be like us watching the creation of the universe, 4.5 billion literal year process, in fast forward mode; and at point of conclusion, stopping it, and then watching it in regular play (still a three hour moving, we are just watching the last hour). If we actually had front row seats to watched the creation of the earth in "regular play mode" it would literally take us 4.5 billion years to watch it because modern day evidence, which has been discovered and tested, proves that because God squeezed that entire process in six literal days--"fast forward mode."

The Old Earth crowd has it right as do the Young Earth crowd; however, the Old Earth crowd needs to stop rationalizing the facts by claiming the Genesis account is an analogy or metaphor, and the Young Earth crowd needs to stop rationalizing the facts by placing a supernatural, infinite, and limitless God into the natural, finite, and limited physical realm. When we think about God, we must be careful to not place Him inside the box of human comprehension.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Beyond The Surface: "The New Man"

II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." [NASV]

Ephesians 4:23-24, "and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, (24)and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." [NASV]

"The New Man" (Yes, this is for the ladies too)

The more we get what we call "ourselves" our of the way and let Him (Christ) take us over, the more truly ourselves become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of "little Christs," all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented--as an author invents a character in a novel--all the different men that you and I intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is not good trying to "be myself" without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires…I like to believe: most of what I call "me" can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first began to have a real personality of my own.

There are no real personalities any where else. Until you have given up your real self. Sameness is to be found most among the "natural" men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.

There must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away "blindly" so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Does this sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impressions you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring two pence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised form the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown away.

Luke 9:23-24, "And He (Jesus) was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (24)'For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.'" [NASV]

"The New Man," as written by C.S. Lewis: "Mere Christianity--Beyond Personality;" Macmillian Publishing., Inc--Copyright 1943, 1945, and 1952