KALEO

Topics for Thought and Discussion

Author: Kaleo

God Can (and Does) Change Hearts

I’ve seen this poem on a few occassions, and it was always in a live setting where I didn’t have time to write it down.  I stumbled across it again while watching a lifechurch.tv video podcast.  I took the time to pause the video and write it down, line by line. 

God doesn’t love me.
You can’t force me to believe
God is good.
This is the one truth in life,
This world is a product of chance.
How can I believe that
God will use my life.
I know with certainty that
God has left me.
Never again will I say that
Christ is Risen from the dead.
I know now, more than ever in my life, that
Man can save himself.
We must realize that it is ignorant to think
God answers prayers.
Christians declare that
Without God, this world would fall into darkness.
This world can and will meet my needs.
It is a lie to say that
God has always been there for me.
I now realize that
No matter what I do,
The truth is,
He doesn’t love me.
How can I presume that
God is for me.

When you look back at 2012 and the new agencies’ recaps of the year, the vast majority of the top stories are extremely negative and troubling.  We are bombarded, day in and day out, with stories of unspeakable tragedy.  It seeps into our converstations, our actions, our thoughts.  We become jaded, negative, pessimistic, and skeptical.  I think this poem hits home with more and more people every year, and it is showing up in the way we treat each other.

 We begin to ask questions about why God allows such terrible things to happen.  Over time, we distance ourselves from God more and more.  We pull away, and we eventually lose our faith. 

The unfortunate truth is that the longer we run from God or pretend he doesn’t exist, the harder our hearts get, and the more difficult it becomes to reverse the damage. 

The good news is that God can (and DOES) change people’s hearts.  He does it every day.  When times are tough, when things seem hopeless, we need to turn toward him rather than away from him.  It’s okay to tell him how you really feel.  Let it all out and don’t hold anything back.  Releasing that anger and frustration is the first step to allow God into your heart.  He is always there, waiting for you.

Those who have put their faith, trust, and hope in the Lord see the world in a different way.  They see the positive side to all the horrible things that happen.  Their outlook on life is very different.

Read the poem again, but this time, read each line starting from the bottom and going to the top.  This is the outlook people have when God changes their hearts and dwells within them.

What outlook on life do you want to have?

The Fruit of the World

But the fruit of the world is hate, sorrow, war, impatience, coldheartedness, evil, unfaithfulness, harshness, and no self-control.  There are many laws against these things.
– Exasperations 5:22-23

This is a relatively simple post this time.  Obviously the verse above is a spoof and not actually found in the Bible.  However, it accurately illustrates what we see every day.

I think it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day chaos and not even realize that we are living examples of the fruit of the world.  Think back over the past week.  Have you experienced any of those from other people?  Doesn’t feel too good, does it?  Have YOU exhibited any of those fruits?  Most likely.  How do you think that affects the people around you?

Now take a look at the actual Bible Verse:
But the Fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.  Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

Simple question… What kind of person would you rather be around, the first or the second?  What kind of person would the people around you like you to be?

How do you get the fruit of the spirit?  More on that in a later post…

T.H.I.N.K. Before You Speak

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14 KJV (emphasis mine)

As disciples of Christ, we are called to model him and treat people the way he treated them. Why did I highlight the Grace and Truth part of the bible verse above?  Is there a connection between the two?  What happens if you exhibit only one of the two?  How do you practically apply somthing like this?

Grace and truth are complements of each other.  One without the other is destructive to relationships.  If you need to correct someone for an error in judgement, for example, the manner in which you tell them about it will determine their response. I would guess, for most of us, speaking to someone in grace and truth is not something that comes to mind, especially if we are in an agitated state.

Too much truth and little to no grace is harsh and devaluing.   The receipient usually feels attacked and frequently gets defensive.  Once in a defensive mode, the person will not respond well to this, or any additional, feedback.  Any hope of changing future behavior will be more difficult.  Many times, if this approach is repeated, the relationship is damaged to the point where a tremendous amount of work needs to be done to restore the relationship.

 On the flip side, too much grace and not enough truth doesn’t help either.  Too much grace typically looks like the person is getting away with too much; too many strikes.  That may be good for the person who is having trouble, but for others, it may cause a certain level of resentment.  Also, by not addressing the issue at hand, nothing is going to change.  The same issues will continue indefinitely. 

The solution is to deliver the news/correction with both truth and grace.  In application, there is a great acronym that prompts you to ask a series of questions before you say anything.  That acronym is T.H.I.N.K.  You’ve heard “Look before you leap.”  This is “THINK before you speak.”

Is what you are about to say…

T: Truthful?
H: Helpful?
I: Inspiring?
N: Necessary?
K: Kind?

The “T” is obviously the truth part of it, the rest are grace. 

If you answered “No” to any of those, you should rethink your approach before you say anything.  Even though you may have the urge to blast someone if you are unhappy about something, attacking them will not make things better.  If you take the time to think through your response, you will find that the person will be more responsive and willing to make changes.

I Thirst…

In an attempt to better understand the extent of suffering Jesus endured on our behalf in the hands of the Romans, I researched the historical methods of flogging, crucifixion, and the general treatment of those condemed to die on a cross.  Our typical image of seeing Jesus nailed to the cross, head down with the crown of thorns, maybe a trickle of blood down his face but generally a clean body, are grossly inaccurate. 

There are many parts of the crucifixion story that we read, but we pass by them without giving them much thought or understanding.  We tend to forget that Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John wrote to an audience who had personally seen crucifixions repeatedly.  Because we haven’t witnessed a true Roman crucifixion, and obviously didn’t live during those times, many of the details that are mentioned in the Gospels go unnoticed.  I want to add some historical context to these chronicles so that we have a better undertstanding of what it was really like.

I plan to cover several topics of Jesus’ crucifixion.  Rather than getting into the physical brutality right away, I want to start with more of the psychological torture, humiliation, and ridicule that Jesus experienced. 

Today’s topic is centered around the final moments of Jesus’ life on earth.  What did Jesus experience just before he died? John 19:28-29 gives a vivid view of the final insult.

I Thirst...28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.”[g] 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit. – NLT

 

 

 

Readers of the day knew exactly what John meant when he said they put a sponge soaked in sour wine on the end of a stick.  I, for one, used to think that the sour wine (vinegar) was the insult.  Jesus wanted water, but they gave him vinegar instead.  While that is cruel, that’s not the intent of what they did.  It is far more revolting.

Roman ToiletRoman public toilets, much like what is shown in the picture of these ruins, were common in all areas of roman control.  There was an elaborate aquaduct system that would carry the human waste away with flowing water.  The more affluent members of the Roman society would have people working in the trenches of these toilets.  Since toilet paper didn’t exist, part of their job was to wipe the back sides of these people when they finished. 

 

Roman Toilet PaperWhat did they use?  They used sponges on the ends of sticks/poles to wipe the people clean.  Because they used the same sponge on everyone, infections were common.  In order to minimize the spread of infection, they would soak the sponges in vinegar. 

 

What the Roman soldiers essentially did was to push a wad of used toilet paper into Jesus’ mouth.  They put a filthy, rancid, feces-soaked sponge in his mouth.  The last thing Jesus smelled and tasted… was that.  What could be more blatantly insulting than to smear someone with the waste of another person?

The next time you are in church, and they talk about the suffering Jesus endured, you now have a small inkling of the insult and humilition he faced.  By the way, he did this, willingly, for you.  Jesus loves you, and wants to have a relationship with you.  This is the price (a small part of it) that he paid so that you could be saved. 

What would you do if  you were supposed to be subjected to that?  To have the contents of the bottom of a portable toilet shoved in your mouth? What if someone willingly took your place so you wouldn’t have to go through that?  Would you thank that person?  Would it be sincere?  If they requested something of you, would you do it? 

Jesus did that, and endured MUCH, MUCH more.  All he asks in return is for you to repent of your sins, accept his free gift of salvation, and follow him.  Is that really too much to ask? 

The Road to Emmaus

This past year, I’ve seen so many people face some incredibly difficult trials. Many of them have fallen into despair & questioned their faith, wondering why God would allow such terrible things to happen. I’ve gained some insight that gives a very elegant & comforting explanation about why these things happen.

Start out by reading “The Road to Emmaus.” – Luke 24:13-35
For your reference, I’ll include the full text at the end of the post.

To set the context… Jesus had just been crucified three days earlier. His tomb was found empty. The two men in this story were on their way to Emmaus, talking about everything that had just happened.

This is a story of lost & found. The two men lost their hope & faith that Jesus was the Savior when they saw the empty tomb but did not see Jesus. Extremely difficult situations where the Lord is seemingly absent can cause us to lose faith as well. Why DOES God allow these terrible things to happen and how can anything good come from them? That’s the question I plan to answer in the following discussion.

There’s a lot going on in “The Road to Emmaus.” For this discussion, I’d like to focus on the meal. Much of what Jesus said and did throughout his ministry had a deeper meaning beyond what you see on the surface. This is true for the meal he shared with the two men.

The focus of the meal that Jesus shared with the two men was the bread. Most of us are familiar with the bread representing the body of Jesus, but there is a different spin on it in this story. In this case, it is what Jesus did with the bread that has significance.

At the meal with the two men, Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them. This models the way God works on our lives. We’ll break down each step and see how they fit into our lives.

The Taking Phase

There are many ways God takes us from one situation to another. Maybe it’s from one job to another, one home to another, one relationship to another, one state of health to another, and even one faith/religion to another. Think back to all the transitions in your life that have led you to where you are now. Is this where you are staying, or do you think God will continue to transition you from one stage to the next? What is the purpose of all this transition anyway? Why can’t we just stay put when we are happy with where we are?

Change and transitions are ways that we learn, gain experience, and grow in wisdom.  The transitions can be both positive and negative; both of which are invaluable.  Many people view any kind of change as something negative.  This greatly hinders the learning and either closes doors, or makes us blind, to the opportunities that are right in front of us.  As I always tell my kids (and myself), the right attitude makes all the difference.  If you go into a transition looking for the positive aspects that is what you will get out of it.  The flip side, equally valid, is that a negative attitude toward change will yield negative results.

If you are in the midst of a transition right now (especially a negative one), take a moment to look at the positive side of it.  Think about the possibilities that could come from it.  The future for us is unwritten.  We have the ability to affect our future for the good.  If you include God in those plans, He will help you get to where you need to be.

The Blessing Phase

This is probably the most sought-after aspect of a personal relationship with God. Who DOESN’T like it when things are going well? Success at work, loving relationships, good health…

The danger in this phase is that we tend to lose sight of God over time. Sometimes, when we begin to take credit for our successes, an unhealthy pride creeps into our lives.  We tend to give ourselves the glory and push God out of the picture. Other times we become so used to things going well that we become almost robotic in our daily routines. We become apathetic to the things that matter to God. How dependent are you on having God direct your life? Do you find yourself taking credit for all your successes? Do you seek His wisdom above your own?

 The Breaking Phase

We’re about to enter the heart of the discussion, the Breaking Phase, but I want to take a slight detour and explore what God wants FROM us and FOR us. That will help as we talk about the difficult situations in our lives. 

I can go in several directions with this, but I’ll select just one for now.

When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, his response was to love God first, followed very closely by loving other people. 

God yearns to have a personal relationship with each of us. He loves us the way we love our own children. He wants all of us to have eternal life with him, and to not lose a single person. 

Unfortunately, we have a spiritual enemy who works day and night trying to get us to turn away from God and do things our own way. He wants to separate us from God and from other people, to destroy our lives. 

God loves each person, and he calls on each of us to do what we can to help those who may be lost or hurting. We are at our weakest point when we are hurting and alone. That’s when the enemy strikes. Difficult situations and loneliness are fertile ground for us to have a crisis of faith, to turn away from God, and to rely on ourselves to get through life’s tragedies.

 When you are in a desperate place, turn TOWARD God and seek help from Him and from people who understand your pain. On the flip side, when you see someone who is lost and hurting, don’t walk the other way. Love them enough to do something to help.

We’ve talked about the Taking & Blessing phases, and we’ve talked about some of the things God wants from us and for us. Now it’s time to dig into the breaking phase.
This is where the pain, suffering, insecurity, and loneliness come into the picture. 

One thing the Bible is crystal clear on is that we will have trouble in this life. Some of you have been through the lowest point already, some of you are there now, and for the rest, the day will come. It could be a job loss, a broken relationship, an addiction to something, a major illness, or even the loss of a loved one. This is the point where faith is lost, found, or restored.

 

The thing I love about Luke’s writing is that he was very precise and deliberate about the details he puts in his writings. In this story (The Road to Emmaus), not only does he describe what Jesus did with the bread at the dinner table, but in verse 35, he places particular emphasis on the fact that it was when Jesus BROKE the bread that the two men recognized him. Despite having listened to Jesus speak 3+ hours about himself as they walked to Emmaus, it was the breaking of the bread that opened their eyes.

Why do you think Luke included that specific detail? I think there was something so unique about the WAY Jesus broke bread that nobody else did it that way. That was his signature, if you will; unique to only Him.  When the two men saw the way Jesus broke the break, they knew instantly who he was.

So, how does that apply to the Breaking phase? When do you think most people come to faith? It’s when they are at their lowest, most broken state. When they’ve exhausted all earthly & human options, they turn to God/Jesus as a last resort. 

At that point, Jesus does something in them that only He can do. There is a sense of relief, of peace, an understanding that defies all logic. It is singularly unique to the breaking phase. People on the outside, observing what’s happening, don’t understand it. 

When you think you can’t take it anymore, go to Jesus with it, and let Him take control.

While I’m thinking about it, I wanted to point out a common misunderstanding people have with something they think the Bible says, but it really doesn’t. Don’t mistake this as me looking down on you and wagging my finger in shame. I had the same misunderstanding until someone else pointed it out to me.

I hear many people say that God will not give you more than you can handle. Unfortunately, that is incorrect. They are referring to 1Cor 10:13, but they are missing a key point in the passage. The verse, in fact, says that God will not allow the TEMPTATION in your life to be more than you can handle. That’s different than the daily struggles that make our lives so difficult.

This fits perfectly with the Breaking Phase we’ve been thinking about. God has a higher perspective than we do. He can see what’s in our best interest long before we do. In some cases we need to stop relying exclusively on our own abilities and let God, and other people, in to help us get through the tough times. There are times when God WILL allow a situation to be more than you can handle. That’s when he wants you to put you full trust in him and let go of the things you can’t control. 

To put it simply; do what you can do, and let God do what you can’t do.

The Giving Phase

Here we are in the home stretch. We’ve talked about how God Takes us from one situation to another, the Blessings he bestows upon us, and the Brokenness that comes into each of our lives. Now it’s time to talk about the Giving phase. This is the point where God’s Will transfers from one person to another. 

When Jesus broke the bread and gave it to the two men, he was giving each man exactly what he needed at that particular time and place; nourishment and fulfillment. I had mentioned that in your brokenness you should find someone to help you through it. In the Giving phase, YOU become that person for someone else. God had you go through that trial for a reason; to take what you learned and share God’s comfort and love with someone who is now in the midst of their own brokenness. Fill and nourish them with God’s love. They, in turn, will pass it along to yet another person.

God’s love is shared, one interaction, one relationship at a time. 

You don’t need to reach thousands of people to have a positive impact in this world. God’s plan is to do it one relationship at a time. Reach out to people who are hurting. A kind and encouraging word, a sympathetic ear, or even a loving embrace will impact both of you more than you realize.

One last image/learning from this passage… When Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, and breaks it, it NEVER LEAVES HIS HANDS. When he breaks the bread, it is in BOTH hands. In the same way, you are always in God’s hands, and when you are broken, he holds you even tighter, with both hands, to make sure you don’t fall.

Now go. Your ARE in God’s capable hands.  Seek the help you need, then share it with someone else.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Luke 24:13-35

New Living Translation (NLT)

13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem.14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19 “What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.

22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on,29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread.

 

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