The One Who Rules

I have this wood carving above the head of my bed. It was given to me on my 13th birthday. In bold font there is the word Leadership. Below the word Leadership is a phrase in smaller letters, “If you command wisely, you will be obeyed cheerfully”. And to the side in even smaller letters is a verse from the Bible, it comes from Luke 22:26, “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves”.

I have read this Luke 22 verse many times through out the years. It is the part out of the whole wood carving that impacts me the most. Why would Jesus say such a thing? We have seen many rulers in our history show their power through the fear and aw they have created in their followers, yet very few rulers have we seen be like servants to their people. It certainly does not seem we Christians see God in that way.

What I hear from most Christians about God is how powerful He is. I hear how aw inspired and fearful of God’s holiness we should be. God actually is described as a ruler who shows his power and holiness through His magnificent acts of destroying temples, parting seas, and creating plagues. The idea of a eternal Hell is used to lift God’s holiness up. We are expressed an God who can not bear to be in the presence of sin. We are shown a God, by most Christians, who will torment us for all eternity if we do not bow down and serve Him.

The image the Western Church has created for God confuses me to be honest. I do not understand how curtain qualities of God fit with our idea of the powerful holy God who can not bear the sight of sin. For example, how does God’s everlasting love fit into the idea of His powerful and holy wrath? Can a God be loving to us all if he sends most of us to a eternal punishment with no chance of escaping? Incredibly most Christians say yes. However, none have been able to explain to me how something like an eternal punishment is loving, they just claim it is.

I wish Christians understood the message they were spreading in regards to God’s holy wrath. I wish Christians understood how the message of God’s eternal punishment counters their message of God’s eternal love. Saying God loves us even though he will send most of us to a eternal punishment, is like saying a father is still loving to his son even if he throws him into the fire to be tormented forever. Any father who punishes his son in the way we believe God will punish non-Christians after they die, would be immediately locked away and called insane. Why does our criteria to what is wrong and right change when God comes into the mix?

I believe, like any dictator, God has the power to do anything he wants. Even though I would not consider God to be loving or just for throwing us into an eternal hell, He can do it if He wants to. He is God you know. I mean, why not? Why should we expect God not be any different then the many other kings and dictators that have come into this world and ruled with an iron fist?

The reason why I consider my God to be different is because I saw His example expressed on this earth in the form of a carpenter named Jesus.

Think about this for a second. Why would our almighty Ruler’s son come to this earth in the form of a carpenter and not a king? Why was it God’s son who told us to forgive our neighbors, take care of the sick, and love our enemies? Why did Jesus go among the people and perform many miracles?  Why did Jesus, the son of our Holy and Powerful God, wash his disciples feet? And, why was it Jesus who was sacrificed on the cross and not us?

The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.

Why do I freely choose to love Jesus? Because he first loved me. Why do I freely choose to serve Jesus? Because he first served me. Jesus was the representation of his Father God. He did not come here to condemn the world but to save it. Jesus expressed to us clearly the true power of his Father and it was not shown through temples falling down, seas parting, or plagues spreading, but rather through humility. God is our greatest servant. His commandments and His punishments are in service to us. God commands us so that we may be fulfilled. God punishes us so that we may see His love clearly.

The reason why this Luke 22 verse effects me so greatly is because it represents the heart of Jesus’ message. The verse represents the core of who I should be as a leader. My parents gave me the wood carving because they believed Leadership was a strength and calling in my life. It is amazing how humbling the idea of leadership has become for me. I pray that every step I make is in service to the people I lead. I pray I can be the kind of servant my God is towards me.

I can not express how thankful I am that the one who rules over all creation is the one who is creation’s greatest servant.

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Faith

“The emptiness in your heart will only be filled by Christ” is a comment usually made by Christians when talking to non-Christians about God. Sadly, very few Christians are close to knowing what the statement means.

I have been talking about Hell lately, or the lack of it. The doctrine of eternal Hell (which I do NOT think is biblical) brings many frustrations up for me. One of the greatest frustrations I have is what the concept of Hell does to our concept of salvation and evangelizing.

Many Christians think that there is a black and white line. We either believe in Jesus or we do not. So many Christians think it is a perfectly good answer to say that the only way you will be fulfilled is by “accepting Jesus into your heart”, without going into any more detail of what that means or how to really do it. With the doctrine of Hell, we create a “in or out” concept of salvation. You either know God or you do not. This “in or out” concept creates a sort of evangelizing where the Christians think that they have complete truth and non-Christian views are completely false. Thus we Christians are able to ignore the non-Christians while trying to throw our beliefs at them. We as Christians do not allow ourselves much growth. The concentration is on whether you are in or you are out, rather then on the continual growth of our faith.

Our unwillingness to see what may be true in another person’s faith is yet another reason why someone would not be too interested in Christianity. Christians have become a bit “holier then thou” based on the principles of their beliefs. I personally would not be interested in a friend who did not care about what I had to say because they thought I was completely false and deserving of an Eternal punishment. Through out the years I have found out that true friendship can not be built on a relationship that only goes one way. If you do not consider the person who you are talking to as significant, it will show.

I refuse to think that Jesus took pity on us because we were completely evil. I think that Jesus saw good in all of us and that is why He chose to save us. When I look at friends who are non-Christians I can not help but see some of God through them. I have been taught my whole life that they are nothing without becoming “Christians“, but I see the opposite in front of my eyes. I have just as many non-Christians friends as Christian friends that help at the local food bank, are kind to those around them, and seem to be following their God given dream.

I want to break the concept of one group being more superior then another. That line of thinking will not help either our evangelizing or our personal growth in our own faith. I am tired of Christians thinking answers like , “The emptiness in your heart will only be filled by Christ”, are good enough. The truth is that many people who claim to be following Jesus are not and many people who have not even heard of Jesus are choosing to follow Him. Truly following Jesus goes farther then just a few words. It is a life walk and everything needs to be taken into consideration.

Faith is a constant growth, not a black and white line. Just telling a friend, “you must choose Christ”, can NOT be good enough anymore. We need to know what “choosing Christ” means. We can no longer ignore the evidence of God in those around us, just because they have not claimed themselves as Christian. Shallow outside looks will not suffice we need to be willing to look deep into someone’s soul. This will call for you to be willing to open up to others just as much as you want them to open up to you.

Accepting Christ means that you are accepting what he did. The revelation of what Christ did on the Cross is simply indescribable. It has been a constant journey for me. I see more and more of the power of Jesus’ sacrifice every day, it is a revelation that will never end.

Accepting Christ, also calls you to act. I am accepting Jesus’ sacrifice through the way I am choosing to live. It is more then just a few words, it is about picking that belief up and choosing to walk with it. I have a responsibility to follow Him, for He is alive.

I think that everyone sees part of the revelation of Jesus Christ. When I see people pursuing their God given Vision such as art, writing, film, medicine, etc… I see them pursuing Jesus. We can NOT ignore God in others anymore. When it starts to be more about discovering God and less about who is right we will begin to see true change in this world.

It is true, “The emptiness in your heart will only be filled by Christ”. But, we need to be willing to look into what that means. And we can no longer deny faith where it clearly stands.

Easier Said Then Done

“It’s not that I don’t want everyone to go to heaven. I do!”, is the sort of line I get A LOT when I am talking to a fellow friend about the doctrine of Hell. I have been warned numerous times to be careful that I am reading the actual Bible rather then what I want it to be saying. For some reason almost every person I debate with about the Doctrine of Hell, seems to think that they would be just fine and even want everyone to be saved, “just that is NOT how God works“.

So I might be one of the only Christians that does not know whether or not I “want” everyone to be saved. I mean I guess I could say something like, “I want everyone to be saved!” out of ignorance, but I do not feel like it rings true. There are and have been some really evil people out there. Can we really say that we want someone who is responsible for the murdering of thousands if not millions (Hitler, Caesar, Kiangsi Kahn, etc…) to be saved? Can someone look at a man who is raping their daughter and say that they still love them? Sorry that I bring up horrific images, but they get more and more common every day.

I was walking home from work the other day and someone screamed at me, scaring the HIBAJEEBIES out of me. It was around midnight and they were doing it just for “fun”. I personally did not think it was “FUN”. I was angry and was tempted to throw a rock at their back window (10 year baseball pitching experience). It is sort of funny, because what I was doing before those people interrupted me, was praying.

When I say that I believe that God has everlasting love for even the least of us I am talking about a truly AMAZING thing. To love, is a very hard thing to do. To have everlasting love, is something that I can not come close to putting my head around. Love demands for you to be selfless and humble. Two qualities even “Christians” have a really hard time with.

Instead of throwing the rock, I chose to pray for the people who yelled at me. It was HARD!!! I needed to grit my teeth and work hard to find meaningful words to pray for these people. It is easy to say something but often it is really hard to actually mean it.

I am not an expert at loving. I have a very hard time trying to love those who are even the closest to me (sometimes they can be harder to really love). I think that everlasting love is something ONLY God can do. It is not a small thing to say that God has EVERLASTING love. But He does.

Even though we might falter, even though we might not believe it or accept it, Jesus loves us. He loves us to the point that we put Him on the cross and He still asked God to forgive us. Jesus will ALWAYS be there for us. This is something I can not say about myself.

I think that the true risk and the hardest thing of all is to be able to love those who do not deserve it. Believing that all will be saved is HARD (at least for me), but it is also exciting. It gives me hope for mankind and compassion for even the most evil people. I am a man with faults who will miss his chance to love some people who might need it, but I serve a God who loves without restriction and without measure and whose bond can not be broken.

Everlasting Love

I must first apologize that I have not been updating the post on a consistent basis lately. One of the reasons I did not get anything written this last week was because of a rather long conversation I had with a friend on facebook, about God’s everlasting Love and His everlasting Judgment.

Unlike most Christians I do not believe in a everlasting Hell. My main argument would be that the Bible in fact points against the existence of a Hell where you go to be tortured for all eternity. The second argument would be that the Bible points to a God who has everlasting love for us and it would seem that a loving God would not punish for the sake of hardening our hearts and hurting us. Instead, I think He would punish us like good parents punish their child, when the child goes astray. A loving parent punishes to help the child understand his or her wrong and turn from it. The third argument, would be that I am not able to worship a God that is willing to send (or allow) millions upon millions of people to be tormented forever and ever.

I must say the conversation my friend and I were having ended with a bit of a unsatisfied result. We needed to, “agree to disagree” because my friend thought I was not willing to change my view and I must say that I was beginning to feel the same about him.

The conversation did however allow me to think a bit more deeply about who I believe my God is. So, I can not complain about the time I took to have the long conversation. The more I look into the God I find in the Christian Bible, the more I am convinced that he has a immeasurable amount of love.

Through out the conversation I had with my friend, I was told about or quoted scripture that seemed to point out that “God can not be mocked” and “we reap what we sow”. I have a really hard time with these scriptures. Of course these seem to be typical points of view that come from many different religions. I have heard about many religions that seemed to take their God as a Great Authority, that would not stand for being mocked. I also have heard about many religions that have huge consequences for going against the “law”, and let you indeed “reap what you sow”.

I guess my problem is that those gods in those other religions I have heard and read about are not the God I fell in love with. When we look at Jesus’ example on this earth, we see something that is uncommon in other religions. We see a God who was willing to sacrifice everything.

The reason why I have problems with verses that talk about God not being willing to be mocked or us reaping what we deserve, is that Jesus’ example on this earth contradicted those verses. Jesus was mocked all through out His life, and Jesus forgave many people who did not deserve forgiveness. When Jesus tells us to forgive 7 times 70 (meaning without measure), He is in fact telling us to not treat others based on what they “deserve”, but rather based on how we as individuals want to be treated ourselves. When Jesus was crucified and mocked he still asked God to forgive those who crucifyed Him.

Why should we think that God changes His example after we die. I am told that we only have this life time to choose God. After we die, God’s love suddenly looks a lot different. If we have not chosen God we are sent to Hell to be tormented forever and ever. Somehow most Christians think that this is not contradicting God’s everlasting love.

I am touching on one of my greatest frustrations, in this post. Christians do not understand why so many people are not wanting to have anything to do with the Christian God now a days. Might it be because they see Him and His people as judgmental and condemning? If you have not “accepted Jesus into your heart”, most Christians would say that you deserve a eternal Hell. Why would a non-Christian want to have anything to do with someone who thinks that lowly of them?

Jesus came to this earth for all of us. When Jesus died on the cross, He died for us all. I often hear of how we are so undeserving of Gods love. How we are like filthy rags to Him and if we have not chosen Him, we are as good as the Devil himself.

I think, if these things were true God would be a idiot for dying on the cross. The truth is that Jesus saw the good in us and that is why He was willing to give everything to let us truly live. When the Bible says that Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8), it means just that, He died for ALL of us. Jesus saw the good in even the least of us, He was a personal God that cared just as much about our examples as our words.

Even if you have not confessed God as your savior. Even if you have not gone to Church or sat down to pray a certain prayer. God loves you! It does not matter what you do or how deep in sin you already are.

The greatest difference between my thinking and my friend’s was who WINS at the end. Sadly for many people, my friend thinks that sin and evil will win out at the end. I personally think that my God is greater then any sin or demon. You might go through a lot of pain before you and the world find God, but I am convinced that God will never give up. I am convinced that my God is a God of everlasting love that will always be there for us and that He will win in the end.