10 Notes

The God Who Wastes Nothing

Perhaps, like me, you’ve looked at all the mistakes in your past and they’re just sitting there, like dead things. Complete wastes that can never be used for anything.

Maybe you’ve looked back and seen all of the wasted time and opportunities and you feel like you’re playing a giant game of catch-up with your life.

However, look at Genesis 50. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and Joseph went through much pain, including being imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. At the end, when Joseph is second-in-command in Egypt, he reveals himself to his brothers, who have come to get food that has been stored in Egypt as a result of Joseph following God’s commands. They beg him for mercy and he tells them not to fear.

"You intended to harm me," he says to them, "but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

Which is nice, but read it in the Nuevo Versión Internacional:

“Es verdad que ustedes pensaron hacerme mal, pero Dios transformó ese mal en bien para lograr lo que hoy estamos viendo: salvar la vida de mucha gente.”

Translation:

"It’s true that you thought to do me evil, but God transformed that evil into good in order to accomplish that which today we are seeing: the saving of the lives of many people."

Perhaps you’ve seen all the wasted time and opportunities in your life. Perhaps you think that they’ll just sit there as black holes in your past, and now you have to not waste your life now in order to make sure you don’t have more black holes.

But realize this: any evil that has been done to you, or that you have done, can be transformed by God into something good.

He is the God who wastes nothing.

Which is really, really good news.

                                                                             —Θωμᾶς

5 Notes

Relationship

A relationship with God is not exclusively filling my head with useful knowledge from books.

A relationship with God is not killing my heart in some demonically twisted sense of “duty.”

A relationship with God is not based in fear.

A relationship with God is not where I serve Him the leftovers of my day.

A relationship with God is not where I sin because I think that’s the only way of getting Him to notice me.

A relationship with God is not where I say “I love you” to Him and then treat Him like crap.

A relationship with God is not where I say “I love you” to Him and then treat people like crap.

A relationship with God is not where I say “I love you” to Him and then treat myself like crap.

A relationship with God is not where I pretend to be someone I’m not just so I think He’ll like me.

A relationship with God is not where I desperately hide my flaws and put on spiritual makeup so I can look presentable to Him.

A relationship with God is not where I try to earn my salvation.

A relationship with God cannot be made into a formula.

A relationship with God is not where I worship Him alongside other gods and goddesses.

A relationship with God does not mean I’m always resting.

What is a relationship with God?

I’m still trying to figure that out. But two things I know for sure:

He is the one who saves me single-handedly.

And a relationship with Him is based in stark, raving, naked honesty.

                                                                  —Θωμᾶς

Notes

God, the Deadbeat Dad (And Other Lies About Him)

Who is God?               

I believe that God revealed himself by coming to earth in the form of a man, named Yashua, also called Jesus. He said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” So if you want to know God, get to know Jesus, because he shows what God’s like.

At one point, Jesus asked his followers who others said he was. They responded with various misconceptions of him. But then he asked them this: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Peter, one of his followers, answered correctly about Jesus’s identity. But I’ve found many times in my life, if Jesus had asked me that question, I would have answered with a gross misconception. So many times I’ve clung to lies about God, lies that have crushed my heart. There are all sorts of delusions about God, ranging from the God of Westboro Baptist Church to the God who only blesses America. In this list, though, I’ll only give the false views of God that have caused me the most grief. Fair warning: this is a long list. I’ve believed a lot of lies about him.

God, the Proud Parent of an Honor Roll Student. This God loves the successful Christians—if you’re especially loving and dedicated to great causes, such as abolishing the sex slave trade or homelessness, then this God loves to interact with you. He feels embarrassed about those who screw up often, however. If I’m constantly failing, he’ll be nice and tolerate me with a pained expression on his face, but only because he has to. When a successful Christian walks in the room, however, his face lights up and he immediately ignores me. He loves me, but he doesn’t like me very much.

God, the Meticulous Bookkeeper. This God keeps a thorough record of all of my successes and failures. The more I succeed, the more he blesses me, loves me and hangs out with me. The more I fail, the more he gets angry, taking away blessings and letting the hammer fall. He keeps reminding me of my failures and keeps telling me I need to improve if I want his favor. To please this God, I must do more good deeds than bad ones. Like the first God on this list, I must earn his affection.

God, the Genie. This God will do anything I want if I pray hard enough or often enough or “in faith.” With his power and my faith, he can take away pornography addictions, give immediate happiness and make me into a supremely awesome man—by tomorrow! If I still struggle with addictions, depression or inadequacy, then I’m just not doing enough or praying hard enough.

God, the Uptight Prude. This God is appalled at anything sexual. If I even notice another woman’s body, then I need to avert my eyes and beg for forgiveness now! Sexuality is this weird thing, a necessary evil that shouldn’t give us pleasure and shouldn’t be talked about. And if I lust, or—even worse—masturbate or have sex, then I’m ridiculously disgusting to him. And homosexual struggles? Don’t even go there; it’s better to hide that from this God. This God hates me for having wet dreams and having problems when I see a woman in a low-cut dress. There’s plenty of guilt and shame given by this God.

God, the Giver of Holy Boredom. This God hates fun. He’s committed to “selflessness,” where I only do acts of giving. Receiving any pleasure from loving is selfish. Taking care of my own needs is also considered selfish. I can pay for others’ food at a restaurant, but I must never let them pay for me. If I’m excited to go to a football game, this God wants me to stay at home and read my Bible. If I enjoy serving people by talking and listening to them, then this God wants me to clean toilets by myself. This God wants me to only do the hard and undesirable things.

God, the Dream Killer. If I have a dream for my life that’s very close to my heart, then this God wants to kill it. I dearly want to be married someday, so this God wants me to be single. I dream of being outside everyday and serving others, so this God wants me chained to a cubicle. This God wants to destroy all my dreams, hopes, and desires and force different ones on me. His vision for my life is one that I hate and breaks my heart, but if I don’t do it he’ll punish me severely until I follow it, docile and passionless.

God, the Doormat. I can sin as much as I want, because I know this God will give me grace. When I look at his face as I run off to sin, it’s sad and full of resignation. This God has neither the power nor the desire to punish me for my sins. His grace and acceptance are so vast; why not take advantage of it? This God doesn’t want to risk me leaving him, so he doesn’t rock the boat.

God, the Tiny Deity. I can understand everything about this God. I can perfectly understand and predict his behavior and feelings at any time. This God can’t call me on large adventures because he’s too small. But he’s certainly big enough to fit in my head.

God, the Decent Guy Who Can’t Empathize. This God died for my sins, but he’s sinless and doesn’t understand the darkest parts of my heart. If I bring up the times when I’ve been afraid because I was lusting after young girls of unknown ages, then he just looks at me strangely and awkwardly changes the subject. He’ll help me with the big, general sins that everyone struggles with, but he’ll avoid the “weird” or “sick” sins.

God, the Deadbeat Dad. If he even knows I’m in trouble at all, this God’s either too weak, too uncaring, or too absent to do anything about it. If I pray for him to help me with my porn addiction, he’ll just shrug and say, “Sorry, kid. You’re on your own.” If this God requires something of me, then I must do it all by myself.

God, the Grudge-Holder. This God was willing to forgive the first 100 times I masturbated, but once I hit 101, he said, “That’s it. You’ve exhausted my patience and mercy. I refuse to forgive you anymore.” This God’s love and grace are limited. Once I’ve sinned a certain number of times or have a certain degree of rebellion in my heart, he’ll start condemning me, and can’t wait until I die and he can throw me in Hell while he laughs.

God, the Loner. This God only wants me to hang out with him and no one else. “I’m enough for your needs,” he says. “My grace is sufficient.” If I feel lonely, then God will satisfy. If I choose to hang out with others, I deny the sufficiency of God. This God would rather have me locked in a room, listening to worship music and constantly thinking about him, than have me playing a game with friends.

These lies have created much fear, doubt and anger in me. Many times I didn’t want to approach God because of them. Again, the only way to destroy these lies is to know, believe and walk in the truth. And to know the truth, I must know Jesus, who is the fullness of God in bodily form. He is God. He shows me what God’s like. He wants us to get to know him and love him. Only then can we can answer his question with truth.               

When Peter answered with the truth, Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” Before we can say who we think God is, we must first know who he says he is. We must see what he’s done and what he’s doing. And the clearest way to see all this is to read the Bible. There, we read about what God has done, what he’s doing, his dreams, his delights, his desires, his pains, his hatreds. It’s like his journal. In the next post, we will investigate it and other sources to discover God’s true identity, in order that we may penetrate the lies and see who he really is. And this identity may surprise the worshipers of cruel, cardboard Gods, all of which will be burned to ash by the fullness of the living Person.

                                                                 —Θωμς

Notes

I’m Unlovable (And Other Lies About Myself)

I have a tendency to hate myself. If you praise me, I’ll receive it, but any criticism pushes the praise out my heart and it lodges there. I can still remember an embarrassing moment where I tried to help my friend Michele by carrying her dish to the table. I ended up dumping spaghetti on her shirt. She took it in stride, but it still mortifies me to this very day. It was good that I wanted to be chivalrous, but the mistake has much more weight in my heart. I remember my mistakes far clearer than my good deeds.

 Satan hates God, and since God loves us, Satan hates us. All of Hell’s forces want to wound God by destroying people. They do that by attacking our identity. Before Jesus started his ministry, the Father said, “This is my Son, whom I love; and with him I am well pleased.” Once Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted, Satan immediately tested him with, “If you are the Son of God….” The first thing the Devil attacks is Jesus’s identity. He does the same to each of us every day.

 Here is a list of the lies that I’ve believed over the years that have damaged my identity. I still believe some of them, even though I know they’re lies. All involve God in some way, but the ones that most directly relate to God I’ll save for the next post.

I am worthless.

When it comes to the big things, I’ll inevitably fail.

As people get to know me better, they’ll be disgusted or unimpressed and leave me.

All I’m good for is lusting and masturbating.

I can’t stop lusting and masturbating.

I’m a sick freak.

I’m not inherently enjoyable.

I’m a burden to people.

I’m undesirable.

I’m just a stupid, immature boy who’ll never be a man.

No woman would ever find me attractive.

Every woman is content to have me as a friend or brother, but will never want anything romantic.

My worth depends on my performance.

My dreams are stupid.

All the things I’m interested in and enjoy are stupid.

No one will ever find my heart beautiful.

No one cares about me.

If I don’t keep up, everyone will pass me by, and I’ll be abandoned and forgotten.

I’m forgettable.

I’m too unique to ever connect with anyone.

All I do is screw up, and all the successes are small and ultimately meaningless.

I’m unlovable.

I’ll never have what it takes.

I’ll never get to a point where I can handle being in a romantic relationship.

I’ll never get to a point where I can handle fatherhood.

I’ll never have the love I want.

This is all I’ll ever be.

I shouldn’t be fiery and passionate, because if I am I’ll only hurt people.

No one actually wants to spend time with me.

I’m the most screwed-up person in this room.

I’m the only one who has any of these problems.

        

These lies have dominated my life. Some have been undone and others are still very powerful. I’m sad to say that most of these are still deep-set beliefs in my heart. What can be done? How do I battle lies? How can their power be broken?    

Lies are only undone by knowing, believing and walking in the truth. This is called trust.

 It’s not enough to know that something’s a lie—we must know the truth. It’s not enough to know the truth—we must believe it to be true. It’s not enough to believe the truth is true—we must live like it’s true, because it is.

Jesus called himself the way, the truth and the life. This means that to know the truth, we must know Jesus. He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. …So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Only he can set me free from the lies that dominate my heart. He wants to set me free, so I must let him liberate me and teach me. And then I must walk in his truth.

How is this done? What does it look like?

We were made in the image of God, which means we share similar attributes with him. To know who we are, to have these lies destroyed and to be able to live in the truth, we must first get to know God. We must have a relationship with him.

So who is God?

That’s for the next post.

                                                                  —Θωμς

Notes

The River of Divine Plot

Recently, I’ve been frustrated with my life. I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. God’s called me to missions and it seemed like I wasn’t getting any closer to that future. I felt distant from God and disconnected from people. I started to flee into pornography and my identity was in shambles. A son of God? Hardly. I was being swallowed in my own problems and my own selfishness. C. S. Lewis once called Hell a fulfillment of the wish “to lie wholly in the self and to make the best of what [one] finds there.” Delight in Hell, and it will give you the perverted desires of your dead heart. 

Then God showed me the truth through imagery. He often does this because I understand truth better that way. He knows me too well. And my Father loves me too much to leave me in my selfish Hell.

When I was a kid, I liked making things out of sand. One time, I built a little hill that connected to a small basin. I poured water on the hill, and it made a tiny river that flowed down into the basin and created a mini-lake. The lake would soon sink into the ground, however, and I was left with mud.

The God-revealed image was this: I, doing this several feet from a roaring river and marveling at the trickling stream as if it was the Amazon.

When I believe that life is all about me, that my story is the central focus, it’s ludicrous. Why be barely fulfilled by my own trickle of a story when the powerfully flowing story of God is right here? I can be swept up in a huge narrative I was made for instead of trying to scrawl some hack job. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” These plans, this future, are the fulfillment of what we were made for and are bigger than any of our human-sized concepts and efforts can accomplish.

Ask God what He’s doing. He took a wanderer with public speaking problems and made him the leader of a nation. He took the youngest child of seven, a simple shepherd, and made him into a king. He took a girl from a poor family of three, raised by a single mother, and made her into one of the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century.

That wanderer was Moses. That shepherd was King David. And that girl was Mother Teresa.

When God gets a hold of everyday people like us, he makes them into the grand supporting characters they were meant to be, with Him as the main character in the story. And these supporting roles are far greater than the star roles we invent for our small, off-Broadway plays about ourselves.

Accept the supporting role. Follow Him. You will experience an adventure far greater than what you have ever read in books or seen in movies.

                                                             —Θωμᾶς

Notes

Notes

The sickness in me

"Humans are inclined to form long term bonds, and that this tendency needs to be incorporated into any theory that attempts to explain human sexual behavior. We are more than just individuals who look after ourselves." Franken

You know what’s sick? I sit in my classes hearing stories I wish my ears never knew. Stories of rapists, and pedophiles, and perverts of every type. As I reach the end of another season knee deep in sexual sin, I look at these men with such disgust. I picture God’s wrath justly acted upon them, a gruesome image where there is no grace, no mercy, and a picture of their sickness forced upon themselves.

To me, there is no punishment that could equal the punishment that is theirs. To me, I want to see every nerve in their body that gives them pleasure, and every thought that has harmed another, torn from them in the most painful way possible.

And then…I realize that I am no better in God’s sight. I am just as guilty of His wrath, and His rage. I have committed countless sexual sins in my life, that the number of people in my city would not even equal the number of sins I have committed. I realize that the mercy Jesus gave me is the same he gives to them, and as I make another failed promise to him, I picture myself as the Pharisees crying “Lord, Lord” in the streets, never changing their ways. Whereas the very perverts I am judging have had the benefit of not making another failed promise to their Savior.

I’ve told Jesus that I was done six times in my life, and failed yet again. The emptiness of my promises has met the emptiness in my heart. Still, I am forgiven; my Jesus is my everything, and my true lover. My life is made to serve Him, and I will give my life trying. Lord, forgive my sickness, the disease that infects the nerves in my body. Purge me of my sin.

In my life I have had my heart broken, my body broken, my soul broken, and if Jesus was not at my side, I dare not dream where I would be today.  I’m grateful for his unwavering, unfailing, undying love.

דוד

Notes

Who am I?

I have trouble writing with complete honestly. That’s why I love poetry. I can be open without being vulnerable. I can clothe brokenness in metaphor and not worry about someone entering the innermost parts of my heart. They can drive all around the outskirts, but they’ll never reach the softest area. Ultimately, though, those clothes fall apart like fig leaves and I’m left standing naked in a pile of flimsy green compost. Every blemish and inadequacy laid bare for all to see.

I remember times where I’ve been astonished at the evil inside me. I was once talking with my friend who had a dead Jewish grandmother and a lesbian roommate. Somehow we ended up talking about heaven and I mentioned about how being good wasn’t enough to get to heaven, how Jesus was the only way. I also said that homosexuality was an obstacle to heaven. She left to get the friends we were going to hang out with. When she came back, she was bawling her eyes out. A mutual friend, who was an atheist, blasted me with words about how judgment only belongs to God. I looked at her tear-filled eyes and saw that I had crushed her heart. Her tears proved him right. It’s intensely humbling when a person who lives the opposite life you do gives you discipline from God.

I can remember every time I’ve made a woman cry. My friend from the previous story. My mom, when I insulted her to her face. I think I once made my sister cry when I was around 8, when I beat her with my fists.

I have a laundry list of sins that I can pull up at any time. Many broken promises to God, saying I would never look at porn and masturbate again. Times I was a coward and didn’t help someone I should have. All the times I was lazy and refused to look for a job to help my cash-strapped parents.

This is why the gospel bothers me. I’ve treated God like crap over and over, yet still he returns, saying, “I love you. Come back.” He hates the evil inside my heart and the bad things I’ve done. Yet forgiveness is freely offered. It amazes me that a God who numbers the hairs on my head and keeps all my tears in his wineskin refuses to keep a list of my sins.

But he doesn’t just stop at forgiving the acts. For the evil acts flow from the evil in my heart. He gives me a new heart. A new identity. What does that mean? Who am I, now that Jesus is in my life? Who should I be? Who was I made to be?

I invite you to join me on this journey. There’ll be ups and downs, strange revelations and a lot of grappling with truth. Not to mention combating lies. But I hope that as I discover more of who I am and who God is, you’ll discover his and your identity as well.

                                                                  Θωμᾶς

Notes

5 reasons not to watch porn

1. The pleasure is fleeting.

It feels really, really good for about 7 seconds.  I know that already.  But it’s not worth feeling terrible for the next week.

2. You’ll end up liking screens more than real women.

Do you really want your mind to be re-wired to where you need to be watching porn while you’re having real sex?

3. She’s faking it.

All that moaning is acting.  Really.

4. Women are people, not commodities.

People and sex were never meant to be bought and sold. 

5. Porn stars don’t love you.

Dude, they don’t even know your name.

Ἰωάννης

Notes

I’m loved well

I can’t be that dude. I don’t have six pack abs.  I’m not going to have six pack abs.  My face gets red easily because I used to have bad acne.  My hair is in patches around my body.  I overeat sometimes because I lack self-control.  Sometimes I’m in a bad mood. 

….but I’m still loved by my Father.

Ἰωάννης