Cut my life into pieces … this is my last resort

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:4, NASB

 

Many, many years ago, I passed through the darkest period of my life. It was a time in which the end of a bad relationship left me without the will to live.

I remember feeling that the pain was so unbearable that I wanted to crawl out of my own skin to escape it. I remember the desperate feeling of hopelessness. I recall the tears, the heart-rending agony, the prayers that did not seem to escape my dorm room walls. Most of all, I remember equating existence with unspeakable pain.

I remember wishing to die.

Its such an unimaginable thought. Wishing for death? If you sit at an outdoor booth in Manhattan, you’ll see all varieties of people rushing by. They’re all trying to live as long as they can. They see doctors. They exercise. They eat celery. Even those who don’t would still take most any action if their lives depended on it.

And yet there I was, in a place I pray very few people go. Its so strange when you come to that precipice. I remember with high-definition clarity that overcast day when I crossed the street from my dorm room to the Village Market, almost praying to be struck by a car. A dark moment in the middle of the night spent staring at a knife set in the middle of a hotel kitchen. My face was drenched with tears by the time I was close enough to touch them. I cried because I felt God’s longing for me to take a look at where I’d gotten myself.

Why am I saying this? Because the other day, I recalled those moments and marveled. My despair was so complete. My life seemed so empty, devoid of love and hope. It all seemed so horrific that I actually thought it would be preferable to give up living.

I don’t know how Jesus saved me from that experience. But He did.

He saved me. I didn’t feel a lightning bolt of relief. I didn’t heal quickly. But now, looking back, I can joyfully say, I KNOW my Redeemer lives. He gave me the oil of joy for sadness. He gave me beauty for ashes. In all my life, I have never known such love and happiness. Once upon a time, I lost myself. My life felt completely hopeless. But now, I have found my life in Jesus Christ. I’ve never felt more complete.

Why do I share this? I share it for you. I don’t know what you’re going through. But if you feel like you’re all out of hope, I’ve been there. I’ve brooded in misery with headphones in my ears, listening to hard rock songs about suicide; I’ve sung the words as if they were written just for me.

“Would you even care if I die bleeding? Would it be wrong, would it be right, if I took my life tonight? Chances are that I might. Mutilation out of sight, and I’m contemplating suicide. Cuz I’m losing my sight, losing my mind, wish somebody would tell me I’m fine… “

And then the climax of the song would come, and he would scream: “I can’t go on living this way!”

If that’s how you feel, the next word I’m going to write can change your life forever.

But. But not just any but. But Jesus.

There may not appear to be hope in your life. You might be feeling like life has pushed you into a dark alleyway corner with a knife pushed up against your throat. There may not be light at the end of the tunnel.

But there is Jesus.

Satan might say, “You can’t go on living this way,” but the Bible says,

“But anyone still alive has hope…” Ecclesiastes 9:4, NCV

And so, if you’re still alive, no matter how hopeless you feel, the almighty God of the universe says you have hope.

A doctor can heal your body. Medicine can numb your pain. Drugs can get you out of your head so you can ignore the desolation in your heart. But only Jesus can heal you on the inside. When you’ve tried it all and you think your only option is death, God invites you to choose life. You can do that simply by choosing Him.

If you don’t know how He can possibly heal you, it doesn’t matter. You may not know how Aleve makes your headache go away, but that does not for a moment stop it from working, does it? The GOOD NEWS is that your lack of knowledge is incapable of making Him incapable of saving you.

Jesus, I don’t know how you saved me. But You did. And for that, my life, my love, and my adoration will always belong to You.

¡¡¡Te amo!!!

Javier

Click here for a quick view of all the Bible verses in this blog post on my tumblr page.

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The Divorce of Love and Law?

“How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.” Psalm 128:1, NASB

For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:9-10, NASB

“RT @OmegaFaith You cannot live the Ten Commandments, nor were they intended for you to live, they are a tutor to teach you your need for a Savior: Christ.”

Ok, I had to respond to this tweet by @OmegaFaith. I know it’s a reference to Galatians, and I know Paul says in Romans that we are not under law but under grace. However, does that really mean we aren’t expected to keep the Ten Commandments?

I’m afraid there are too many plain, straightforward, no-nonsense Scriptures that teach otherwise.

The law of God is always associated with love in the Bible. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments,” and, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” in John 15:10.

Just as by the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20), by the law is the knowledge of love. We don’t know what love is until God defines it for us in the Ten Commandments.

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:2-3.

Here, John says that God’s commandments are not burdensome. But doesn’t saying that we cannot and were never meant to keep them logically contradict this verse?

What’s more, we see that the love of God requires keeping His commandments. Jesus said it is by our love for one another that the world will be able to identify us as His disciples (John 13:35). We therefore must understand that in order to keep the commandment to love each other with a divinely inspired love, we must also keep the Ten Commandments. (Or, is it really possible for me to love my neighbor while stealing from, lying to, and betraying him?)

In fact, Christ said that the whole law and the prophets can be summed up in loving God with everything we are and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-31). Loving God’s way and keeping His commandments are inseparable.

This is not to say we are saved by works, but rather that the verity of our salvation is demonstrated by our bearing the fruits of the Spirit, of which love is foremost (Galatians 5:2223). This point cannot be over-emphasized: we can NOT keep God’s law of our own efforts – we can do so only when we are in Christ. Peter tells us that God gives us divine power to walk in obedience (2 Peter 1:3; see also Ezekiel 36:26-27).

It is by His power, not ours, that we can love His way. We can only love His way by obeying His commandments; and only by putting our faith in Him can we obey them (Romans 1:5; 16:26).

The more we love God, the more His law will become our delight, and the more we will seek to please Him even in the thoughts of our hearts (Psalm 19:14). Our obedience becomes the ultimate love song to our beautiful Creator.

What do you think? Are you comfortable saying that God never intended for people to keep the Ten Commandments?

The World Outside Your Bubble – Review of Max Lucado’s NEW book, Outlive Your Life

Outlive Your Life

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado (published by Thomas Nelson)

The challenges humanity presently faces are of a magnitude that defies comprehension. The sheer scale of global crises such as poverty, hunger, disease, and human trafficking can easily numb us into hopelessness. After all, what can one person really do to turn back the tide of human suffering?

In Outlive Your Life, Max Lucado reminds us of what’s possible. Using the historical narrative found in the New Testament book of Acts, Lucado highlights the way the first century Christian church put their faith into action, and how the results profoundly changed their world. Drawing lessons from their lives, he shows us how we too can do the kind of good that will outlast our own lifetimes.

I brought this book with me to Starbucks on my lunch break one weekday. On my way in, I brushed off a boy who was selling products to raise money “for a good cause” just outside (I was the second consecutive person to do so). Honestly, I hadn’t even considered helping him, and before I could blink, I was already safely inside. As I sat reading, though, I realized that I hadn’t allowed myself to truly see or empathize with him. I lifted my gaze and noticed several other people coldly ignoring his pitch as they passed him by. I was so inspired by what I had just read that I had an instant change of heart. Suddenly, I felt compassion on the boy and recognized that God had given me an opportunity to let someone know that He loves him. As I passed him the second time, I stopped and handed him a five dollar bill. When he asked me which one of his items I’d be taking, I told him, “Nothing. I just wanted to tell you that Jesus loves you.”

I walked back to my car overwhelmed with emotion. Don’t get me wrong, I know I didn’t save the world. I just listened to the voice of God, and afterward, I could feel that a powerful current of love had just passed through me, from the heart of God, to that boy.

Often, people say they want to lose themselves in a book, to turn their gaze inward. This is one of the rare books that does just the opposite – it turns your gaze outward. In a culture where everyone lives in their own bubble, Lucado encourages us to take an honest look at how we respond when we see someone in need. This is just one example of the epiphanic moments I had while reading Outlive Your Life. I highly, highly recommend it.

In God’s Eyes, Experts Not Smarter Than a 5th Grader

Ancient Babylon, originally uploaded by cool-art.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.” Matthew 11:25-26, NASB

In the second year of his reign after the death of his father, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that he found so disturbing he was literally losing sleep over it (Daniel 2:1). He was desperate to find someone to interpret the dream, but astutely required that his sorcerers, mediums and magicians first tell him the dream itself. These people were apparently pretty sneaky, and the king knew they would say anything to save themselves. So he tested them, saying, “First tell me the dream so that I know that I can trust you to give me it’s true interpretation” (Daniel 2:9).

Even though their words were slippery and their scruples questionable, these people weren’t stupid, or even of average intelligence. The king highly valued knowledge, and actively sought the cream of the intellectual crop to serve him in his palace (Daniel 1:4). Daniel himself referred to them as wise men (2:24).

They knew everything there was to know about the sciences and culture, were well-versed in the language of the elite (Aramaic), and made foretelling the future their primary goal. But the height of human wisdom and knowledge fell far short of accomplishing what only God could do. There is only one who knows the future, the One whom Jesus called Father, Lord of heaven and earth, and He is the only one who can reveal it. Even the wise men of Babylon admitted as much:

The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean. Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.” Daniel 2:10-11

Only God can reveal the secrets of the future, and He reveals them to whom He chooses. In this case, to whom did God reveal His truth? Not to the proud and self-congratulatory, who loved themselves and trusted in their own erudition, those who the godless world considered wise; but He chose people of faith, steadfast commitment to God, and continual prayer. God didn’t care how old they were. He has always loved using young people who had no credentials except their unflinching faith in Him (see my previous post on David). Here, He chose the young Hebrews – infants compared to the king’s wise men.

“Yes, Father,” said the Lord Jesus Christ, referring as much to this story as to any of the many other times He chose to work through young or inexperienced people, “for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.”

Lord, let us have the trusting faith of children, that you may deem us worthy to receive the revelations of your truth.

David – Talking (and Walking) a Big Game

Star of David, originally uploaded by Thomas Hawk.

Then it happened when the Philistine rose and came and drew near to meet David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 1 Samuel 17:48

I see why God loved David so much. When he saw Goliath, the giant Philistine, taunting the Israelite army, he didn’t think twice about taking him on. He didn’t try to be smarter than faith.

We read in the Bible that we’re supposed to have faith in God. At first, we try to generate that faith of our own strength (although Ephesians 2:8 tells us that true faith is actually received as a gift from God). In an attempt to do that, we often try to help God out by figuring out exactly how He could save the day. The problem is, as we start our analysis of the situation, we inevitably become myopic in our vision until all we see are the circumstances. We soon use our “intellect” to assure ourselves of the impossibility of 300 men defeating innumerable multitudes (Judges 7:2,7), or of water springing forth from a rock in the desert (Exodus 17:6). In this way, we try to be smarter than faith. We think we know better than to believe in God’s power.

David, though, put faith in God first, and everything else second. He knew that he didn’t need to be anything special, because what mattered was who His God was. When it came to Goliath, he didn’t think about his short stature or how Goliath could, with one finger, snap his neck like a piece of dry spaghetti. His faith in God was so big that there was no room left for fear.

“This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:46-47

David talked a big game, but he didn’t doubt for a second that God would give him a decisive victory over Goliath. The Word says that he ran quickly to the battle line to meet him. The mental image reminds me a lot of the time my sister’s tiny Yorkshire Terrier ran off a German Shepherd!

If we doubt, we’ll stay put. But if we truly believe, we’ll RUN to the battle line!

Daily Bread = Daily Dependence

Checkbook, originally uploaded by rdodson76.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34)

I’m learning that God always provides for His children, but not always when we’d like Him to.

We’d like Him to do it well in advance of when we need it, because we don’t want to face the uncertainty. Because God doesn’t send us a memo that lays out exactly how and when He’s going to meet our needs, we often start doubting whether He’s going to come through at all.

But as you read through the Pentateuch, you’ll notice a pattern. God doesn’t generally give His people a month’s worth of provisions, or even a week’s worth for that matter, but rather, just enough for one day. The manna, their daily bread, would only last for a day before it would spoil (except for what was collected in preparation for the seventh-day Sabbath rest). Many centuries later, Jesus reiterated that principle in the Lord’s prayer. It’s not that God can’t provide more; it’s that He wants to teach us to trust and depend on Him on a moment-by-moment basis.

To test the people’s faith, sometimes He allowed them to feel hunger. “‘He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.'” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

When my parents had just gotten married, money was in very short supply. I had recently been born, my mom was still at home with me, and my dad was working in a warehouse. There came a point when we had no money and the $400 rent payment was due on our small apartment.

We had no earthly resources, but we did have a heavenly One. My parents brought the situation to God in prayer. We didn’t know how God would provide for us, but as it turned out, that didn’t matter. Just when we needed it, a check was slipped under our door.

Would you like to venture a guess at how much the check was for? Precisely $400 and zero cents. On the very day we needed it, He gave us our daily bread. (We still don’t know where the check came from.)

Before we even ask Him for help, God knows what our needs are (Matthew 6:8, 32), but we are still to ask (Luke 11:9).

“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.” (1 John 3:21-22)

The message is this: be faithful to God, and He will be faithful to you.

“I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.” (Psalms 37:25)

Dedicate yourself to being His child – He will not forsake you, either.

The Gift of Brokenness

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:3-4

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalms 51:17

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalms 34:18

Do you feel like you’re falling apart inside? Like life has a personal vendetta against you? Consider it your moment of opportunity.

It sounds completely crazy, I know. But having a broken spirit can be a priceless gift.

Think about it. How many people have you met who choose to bottle their pain up instead of dealing with it? How many people destroy their bodies and shorten their lives using alcohol and drugs to cover up their hurts? How many crave the sensory overload of a night club but never ask themselves why? How many become pleasure addicts, seeking a dopamine rush from food, sex, gambling, compulsive shopping, or any number of quick fixes? If you’ve ever been addicted to anything, you know that addiction is slavery. (If you don’t have first-hand knowledge of that, this new show on TLC will convince you.) How many people out there would rather be enslaved to vices than face the truth of their brokenness, the truth that always screams louder in the stillness and quiet?

When you’re numb, or high, or otherwise over-stimulated, it’s easy to desensitize your heart to the pain and forget yourself. The fear of coming back to that quiet, still place keeps you running away. The saddest part is, when you run like that, like a dog chasing it’s tail, you’re only running from yourself.

But if you feel broken, and you think you’ve got nothing left, then you’ve actually got something that the people in denial don’t have: hope.

Yes, you read that right. Hope. Because if you’re not aware that you’re broken, you’ll never try to get better. As long as you refuse to own up to your brokenness, you will never stop looking for a fix. But, if you know you’re broken, you actually want to be fixed. You’ll ask the question that can change everything:

What do I do now?

When the jailer charged with keeping Paul and Silas imprisoned saw that they had been set free by an angel, he resolved to kill himself rather than face the punishment that awaited him; but when Paul told him all the prisoners were still there, the jailer fell at their feet and asked this very question.

“And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ (Acts 16:29-30).

Likewise, when Peter boldly laid out the gospel at Pentecost, the book of Acts tells us that those who accepted his message were “pierced to the heart” by God’s truth (Acts 2:38). Their sin was laid bare before them. Accepting their brokenness, they asked the apostles, “What shall we do?”

The answer?

  • Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
  • Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.  (Acts 16:31)

If you are broken, it’s because you haven’t found anything in the world that can give you what you need the most. Drugs will mask the pain. Pleasure-seeking will temporarily distract you from it. But when you’re ready to stop running and take an unflinching look at your broken life, the Savior is waiting to pick up the pieces.

And that’s why there’s nothing wrong with falling to your knees, if you fall at the feet of Jesus. If you’re broken, there is hope for you, if you will reach for the outstretched hand of God.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in…”  (Revelation 3:20).