Intuition: Mortal Commodity

Intuition is a gift. However, as with everything God has given us, there is a way to use it incorrectly. Chances are, we will figure out how to abuse any gift of God; that is simply our sinful and rebellious nature. So how do we discern proper use and misuse of this gift?

God has really been putting this on my heart for a while. It has simply taking me this long to really sit down and listen. Let me start with scripture. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way to death.” Powerful stuff.

God has blessed us with intuition, but he has also given us discernment. We just need the wisdom to know when our thoughts are lined up with God’s thoughts. I believe this is the heart behind Solomon’s request for wisdom. God offers him anything in the world, and he asks for the most important thing: wisdom.

Let’s get back to that proverb. The heart behind this verse says that what we think is right is the way to death. I’m going to say something that will really hit hard if you let it. I know this thought destroys every ounce of pride that I hold. What you think and what you feel are not absolute truth.

Ouch, right? This is killing me just to even right this. Just because you think it’s right, or it makes you feel good, or you don’t feel guilty about it, or you don’t think it’s that bad, doesn’t make it right. You are not your own moral scale. You can’t make up your own truth. Truth must be absolute for it to even fulfill its own definition.

Let me share another quote with you that has been tearing me up inside since I first heard it. Blaise Pascal said, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” Just let that soak in.

Everything we do is hedonistic. Everything is for our own pleasure. We even turn seeking God into something to simply make us happy. When it stops making us happy, we stop seeking. When we run out of things to make us happy, we turn back to God. You want to know what Jesus meant when he said to deny yourself? He meant that you’re going to have to put your happiness aside to follow him. He meant that you’re not always going to be happy. You can’t always be seeking happiness. You can’t be seeking things that just make you feel good or things that you think are right, apart from what the author of truth has said in scripture. This is man’s mindset. This is small thinking. This thought taken to the extreme is what leads people to kill, steal, hate, do drugs, have sex, and even kill themselves. He never promised us happiness; he promised us an abundant life.

God wants abundance for us. Fulfillment is found in truth. Truth is found is scripture. Scripture is from God. We must read God’s word, seek God’s truth, ask for God’s wisdom, and follow his will. This means that we can’t just get drunk or have premarital sex or harbor anger just because we want to. When you chose to follow Jesus, or if you do choose that, you chose to deny yourself. We signed up for this. You want fulfillment? You’re only going to find it in one place. I can assure you.

We do not get to be whatever we want and just attach God’s name to make sure we win a basketball game or our sick grandfather doesn’t die. We cannot change God’s character by attaching new truth to his name. We are to change by attaching God’s truth to our lives.

What are you doing with your life? I ask because that’s the question God keeps pushing on me. What are you doing? I know that I hate when God’s name is grouped with things that are not Godly. I’m sure God hates that infinitely more. To end on point, our intuition was given to us to find God, not to make a god out of ourselves. Use it correctly or it will become a mortal commodity. It will lead to death.

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Myth: The God of Karma

Okay, the title might be kind of misleading. Just stick with me here! This will (hopefully) make sense as you read.

Often times, it seems that Christians fall into this ideology that God is a god of karma. We may understand that our works do not save us, but often it seems that we believe that our works will make God love us more or bless us more. This is simply not true. Remember, I have said this before, but Satan only tells lies when they are almost the truth. Our works matter and God blesses us, but these are not related in the way we seem to think they are. Let me explain.

For some reason, as Christians, we tend to fall into this rut of “I am doing all of these things right, but God hasn’t ____.” We believe that our attempts at pleasing God should be met with God bestowing happiness and blessing upon us. This is not the case at all. Jeremiah 17:7 says, “The man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is in the Lord, is blessed.” Now, you may be thinking that that means when we trust God, all of this happiness and rainbows and butterflies are just going to come pouring over us.

Reread this verse. The man IS blessed. It doesn’t say that the man WILL be blessed. Although this may appear to be just a small grammatical difference, this is huge. God does not bless the man who trusts in him with things or gifts or anything like that. The man’s blessing comes simply from being in the presence of God. I think that we often forget that being in God’s presence is the greatest blessing of all. That is fulfillment. That is abundance. That is blessing. That is love. That is where we find ourselves. That is where we are complete. That is the only place we are complete. What more could you ask for?

This issue can also be approached from a different angle. The idea of karma is that one can essentially put the universe (or whatever higher being) into his or her debt. The reason this does not work with the idea of the God of the Bible is that Jehova God can never be in our debt. He doesn’t owe us anything. Everything is already his. You cannot make God owe you. You can’t try to do all of things right and then expect some sort of reward. The reward for loving your neighbor is peace, fulfillment, completeness, not an A on the math test you didn’t study for or a little extra money this month. That isn’t how God works. He’s not a credit card. He’s the creator. He’s the savior. No matter what we do in this life, we belong to God. God doesn’t belong to us.

We need to stop seeing God as synonymous to karma. God doesn’t just bless the good and curse the bad. His will, his purpose, his nature is far more complicated than that. We limit God by expecting happiness from simply doing the right things. When we do what is expected of us, that doesn’t merit reward. That’s simply what you were supposed to do.

For the visual learners out there, I am going to apply this to my dad and basketball yet again (big surprise, huh?). My dad was the kind of coach that didn’t get excited too easily. We often saw him standing on the sidelines with his arms crossed in front of him, subtly chewing on a piece of gum, and either nodding or shaking his head ever so slightly. If my dad shows a lot of emotion, it’s serious. You either did something so unbelievably awful that he felt the need to act it out, laugh at you, and sub someone else in, or you did something so great that all he could do was chuckle to our assistant coach and give you a thumbs up. Anyways, THE POINT: If we ran a play correctly, my dad didn’t get all excited and give us all some candy and throw a party for us. He would just nod his head because it was expected.

The same is true for God. God expects us to seek him. Obviously, he knows we are imperfect, but his standard is that we will seek him. Our reward for seeking God isn’t the blessings along the way. Our reward is in heaven. Our reward is to receive exactly what we are searching for. Our reward is God.

Ex Gratia ; Sola Gratia

So I made one of those permanent decisions recently. I got tattoos. Finally! But I thought since I got them in Latin, and Latin is all mysterious and what not, I should probably explain a little. So here’s that.

As you can see, my left foot has the words Ex Gratia tattooed on it. Ex Gratia is latin for “from grace.” This sounds pretty Christiany, huh? Well, hold your horses. This is actually a legal term. It refers to a legal act in which on party does something for another simply in favor or in kindness. There is nothing the receiving end can do about it. It just is. Now we apply this to Jesus for my case. Jesus did this for us. Sometimes I just need to be reminded of the simplicity of the gospel. Jesus took my sin. Not just emotionally or figuratively, but literally and legally. I am no longer indebted to it. To me, this phrase Ex Gratia is like Jesus saying, “It is finished.”

What I also love about this is that the meaning becomes deeper each day. It also serves to remind me that grace comes first. Just like the legal aspect of anything always has to come first. You walk into a bank and what’s the first thing they have you do? Fill out paperwork. You go to school, what do they  make you do? Paperwork. Just like legality comes first, Jesus grace comes first. I don’t need to sin just to receive grace. I have received grace first, so therefore I flee from sin.

On my right foot I have something similar (but completely different) tattooed. It reads Sola Gratia. This phrase is one of the five solae propounded during the Protestant Reformation. This phrase means by grace alone.” This is also something I need to be reminded of daily. I have struggled tremendously in the past with both extremes of legalism. I have thought that doing everything right will save you, and I have thought that nothing that I do matters because I have grace. Both of these are lies, and hopefully that is evident when they are written out. However, I have also struggled with this middle ground issue. I hope someone can relate to this. I struggle with believing God is a god of karma. Now, don’t worry, I am not going all new-agey on you. Although I will realize in my head that there is nothing in my power that I can do or accomplish or say that will save me or save anyone else, I often struggle with thinking that accomplishing more things will make God happier with me. Therefore, I think God should bless me. It is a simple, small lie with catastrophic and far-reaching implications. This tattoo reminds me that I cannot put God in my debt. God will never owe me anything because everything is already his by grace alone.

Together, these tattoos remind me that I belong to God. I am marked forever, and not just on my body. This is something that Satan uses against me, so I’m going to literally wear my struggle. Battle with me. Image

A Place Only You Can Go

So one of my favorite songs of all time (which is saying quite a bit) is Needtobreathe’s song A Place Only You Can Go. I love this song for many reasons, but the most moving and most truthful lyric I have ever heard is in this song. It says, “Grace she comes with a heavy load / Memories they can’t be erased / Like a pill that’s swallowed that makes me well / But leaves an awful taste.”

This one particular line often flutters around in my head. My conscience uses this lyric on me constantly. It reminds me of Romans 6, which is such a difficult yet profound chapter of scripture.

For those of you who are not familiar with this chapter, the beginning goes a little something like this, “What should we say then? Should we continue to sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it” (Romans 6:1-2)?

Those two verses kill me sometimes. The most common lie the devil likes to tell me is this: “It’s okay. Just see what this is like. You can have grace later.” Romans 6 absolutely destroys this lie. So many times in my life, I have done things while thinking “I can always be forgiven later.” This is a terrible aspect of the human condition, but it is remarkably real in my life especially.

Going back to that Needotbreathe lyric. “Grace she comes with a heavy load / Memories they can’t be erased / Like a pill that’s swallowed that makes me well / But leaves an awful taste.” Grace cures, but memories don’t just die. Yes, I 100% believe that I have been forgiven for everything I have done, am doing, and will do. However, just because I have been forgiven of those things doesn’t mean I don’t still think about them. Even once the guilt and shame have been overcome through Jesus’ grace and forgiveness, there are still the memories of the things that I have done. I am not the same person because of things I have said, my mistakes, and choices I have made.

Sin isn’t an idle thing. Sin isn’t just something that you do that you need forgiveness for. Sin eats you alive, even after the actions have ceased. Sin destroys you. Sin changes you. Sin makes you see people differently. Sin makes you see God differently. The deeper you get into sin, the more grace you may receive, but the more difficult it is know what is true and what isn’t. Sin is darkness. Lies are darkness. One cannot focus on truth while living in sin. We say we have died to sin. Although, people still makes mistakes, and though we are all still growing and learning, sin is not something to be teased. Don’t play around with it. Sin is death. God meant that when he said it.

God is not trying to limit your life or keep you from doing things. God doesn’t want you to be hurt by your sin. God doesn’t want to see his children die from the inside out. God doesn’t want to see darkness take over you. God wants your life to be abundant. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” God’s rules are not legalistic. God’s rules are to make your life more abundant.

I know from personal experience that this is true. I have lived many years in darkness. I have returned to that same darkness many times, and each and every time it becomes more difficult to escape. Grace becomes harder and harder to swallow the more we live in sin. I am not saying that not sinning will make you happy all the time. I am saying that life will be much more fulfilling without sin and without the memories of sin.

God’s grace is beautiful. Just be careful not to sin with the thought that grace will follow. If you’re thinking about grace before the sin, you know better. Mistakes happen. Just don’t abuse God’s grace. It will only leave you empty and hurting.

The Death of Gravity

I like this one quite a bit. I hope that enjoyment is shared.

some days I wake up like God put too much gravity in my knees

and now I’m falling prostrate

and on my face is written the name of a god that I created

a god that can’t know my name

this god is a million empty bottles

and a pile of burnt grass

and a collection of brash masks

and a feeble past

and lonely ash

that will one day become my body

I’m killing myself softly

and slowly

and intimately

my feet are dancing vicariously around the idol called me

and I’ve forgotten which way is up

I climbed down from a tree

and ended up in the sky

that was the last time I trusted my own intuition

or my own sense of direction

I asked God to tie balloons around my eyes

so my face would always tilt upward

and so that every god that dust created

would fade away

and fall apart

and die in someone else’s arms

Thanks for reading this. Hopefully, there will be more to come!

Quit Trying: I Dared You to MOVE.

I recently had a long conversations with someone about arrogance. This person told me that they were trying to live out love and compassion. They told me that they didn’t like their arrogance or any of the dark things inside of them. They told me that they wanted to change. They said that they were trying to change.

This all sounds progressive, right? I will agree that it is a good first step. However, this made me realize something about myself. When was I going to stop trying to change and actually do it? I know I reference my dad and basketball a lot, but here we go again. During basketball, when my dad would explain something, I was in the habit of responding with “Okay, I’ll try.” My dad would always catch me and say, “I didn’t ask you to try. I asked you to do it.”

I realized that I had been passively waiting for Jesus to fix me. That I have been wanting the little inkling of desire to change in my heart to be enough for Jesus to do it for me. Yes, Jesus is the one who changes, but we do have a role in this. We have free will.

Jesus may do the heavy lifting, but we have one decision to make. This is not passive; it is submissive. Submission is active. It is a daily decision. Our decision is whether to turn to Jesus or not. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, if you are a believer, you know that this can be really difficult.

The important thing is that we realize that we have to DECIDE and ACT. Jesus is not just sitting up in heaven manipulating us to do what he wants. Jesus wants us to love him actively. Like I said in my blog post about love a while back, love requires dependence on God. Dependence is an action, not just a decision. We need to stop TRYING to change, and just DO it.

Dreaming of Being a Star: A Poem

This may be long, but I like it a lot. Maybe you will too. You won’t know until you read it though… 

Your lips move like a stuttering soliloquy

reciting rehearsed lines from the prose of your mind

but the subtext of your heart proves you a liar

your curvaceous silhouette conceals your sly hesitance

but the contours of your heart bulge through the scars in your skin

not cuts, but scars

cuts are endodermal but these scars are endocardial

they are cardinal; like the color of your blood

as it frees itself from the prison of your wrists

shackled hate unfettered from arteries 

arteries so clogged that mere breath is stolen from you

lungs filled with regret

plagued from the infection of past deeds

cloistered by apprehension and blundered trust

you are recluse

shamed by reckless love and blackmailed happiness

trust; born of a virgin 

too naive to discern and

your bones were made of glass, stained glass

stained blue by despair

and shattered by cutting bitterness from broken promises

the cons in their speech led to knives in your back: conniving

your pride lies 

lies murdered in the streets of abusive relationships

you’re abandoning ship

but smooth seas never made a skilled sailor

so you take a ship called emotion and sail her

sail her farther west than sins were cast

joy castrated from your heart

a weary soul casts a shadow of impotence on unsuspecting travelers

but you travel alone

bearing the burden of darkness entirely

willing to trade intimacy for a quiet conscience

and passion for sane thoughts

you travel alone

a lone wanderer

or maybe a soul wanderer 

they say “not all who wander are lost”

but you are lost

shipwrecked in a teeming town of solitude

your eyes are like Paris in the rain

dark, but still lovely

abandoned, yet hopeful

a contradiction

the antithesis of optimism

but not quite a pessimist

with ambitious dreams and lofty aspirations

self pity is a temptation

that leads to self depravation

and allusive fantasia

you’re a dreamer

with your head in the clouds

and an anchor on your ankles

the immobility is paralyzing

you linger with your head high but your spirits downcast

your sun was cast down from its conceited throne

and thus ceases the illumination of the moon

so you waltz with stars

though they burn you, they save you

though they cut you, there you find salvation

you envy the stars

they fall when they desire

shoot daydreams in beams of freckled light to a lamenting earth

and people are always thrusting dreams upon their shimmer

but as those stars grow brighter

your light fades

dimmer, dimmer, dimmer

until the only lightness about you is a free spirit

unabridged apathy

bridges the gap between body and soul

now your arms are your mind’s diary

your heart’s monologue

logging every affliction 

affectionately writing love on your arms

hoping someone might speak your language

but your silent screams fall on deaf ears and colorblind eyes

as you lie in bed at night

dreaming of being a star

you have a faint hope

a faint hope that tomorrow will be a different day

I hope you all enjoyed that, or at least one of you. Thanks for reading it. It means a lot to me! Keep an eye out for more.