Saturday, July 27, 2013

Carpe Diem

Needless to say, I've become slightly convicted over the phrase "Carpe Diem."  I was watching the "Dead Poet's Society" the other night and this phrase was brought up.  If you don't have a clue what I"m talking about, check it out on youtube.  I didn't make it much past this seeing this scene because of how late it started.  However, I wasn't thinking how I needed to walk into a hallway to look at pictures and think about how they lived their lives.  My thoughts went more to my parenting nature.

I'll be honest.  It's hard being a parent, but pretty easy to become a lazy one.  I've come to realize that sometimes, I am straight up lazy... I am not seizing the day with my children.  I may be seizing it for me and myself.  Here are some ways that you can test to see if you are "seizing" the opportunity with your kids or yourself.

1.) You don't do stuff with your kids because you don't like doing it... Lets' be honest, there are lots of things our kids enjoy doing that we do not.  I just find what I want to do more entertaining than making 50 paper airplanes that are destroyed almost the instant they are handed over to the hands of the wee ones.  I must remind myself, parenting takes work and being a good parent takes even more.

2.) You get angry at your kids for being kids.  Why should my kids stay quite in the car?  Did I like sitting in a car for long periods of time.  And on that note, since when do kids have to be quite in restaurants?  They're kids and they'll let you know when they're excited, upset, sad, or in pain.... and they will do so as loud as possible to insure that everyone knows what page they are on.

3.) You are too busy to play with them. This is something that I have to check all the time.  I'm too busy with ____(fill in the blank)___.  For me it sometimes revolves around nothing of importance... like "prestige-ing" in "Call of Duty" or just keeping myself busy with mediocre "daily" or "honey-do" tasks.  Like right now, my son wants me to make a paper airplane for him... but I'm doing this.

4.) Teach them about Jesus.  I fail a lot.  My wife, children, friends, students, co-workers, and the like could all attest to this.  But one of the main things, I need to do is to share Jesus with my kids.  Why we shouldn't slap our sister.  Why we don't say "I hate you".  Why I fail to make the right decisions.  Why I lose my temper.  Why I ask for forgiveness.  It's all based on the concept of trying to be like Christ.  I may not follow Him the greatest.  I may not be the best example.  But I must, Must, MUst, MUSt, MUST point them to Christ and say this is how we should act.

There are more, I guarantee it.  But these are the main ones for me.  So what is it going to take for you to seize the day with your kids? spouse? parents? Neighbors? 

Do you see what I mean?  Carpe Diem within the family is just the beginning.  What happens if we fulfill it outside the family as well --WITH a Christian worldview.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

No Sleep Again.

As I begin to type this, it has now become 11:23 pm and I'm watching Disneynature's "Oceans". Sleep, needless to say is not on my side. It doesn't help that I have oodles of stuff on my mind right now, such as: buying our new house, having Heather as my power-of-attorney so I can go to soccer camp, cleaning the new house, the need to work on school work, focusing on "future" goals, and lastly, going through the book I am reading.

I am currently reading "Radical" by David Platt. It has become one of the most convicting books I have read, either my entire life or in a very long time. Most books that I read deal with understanding theology and knowing Scriptures better, but not this book. This book is developing a theology and inviting, nay, pushing you to apply and live by the theology that you have.

His whole premise is that we have "Americanized" the Gospel... and oddly enough- he's right. We have developed our cliches, our boundaries, and our own desires as smoke screens to keep us from chasing after the command given (which he makes a distinct difference between command and calling) on sharing the Gospel. We have made the Gospel all about us with "our own" best intentions in mind. I'll give an example. I recently overheard a conversation of a college student and please understand, I did not hear the full conversation, but let me share with you what I heard:
"The only reason I became a member of this church is so that they would support me on my missions trip and give me $200 a month for going to a Christian school. I think it's absolutely ridiculous that they would have the stipulation of membership before they do these things."
I'm not sure how the appropriate response would go, but needless to say, I was pretty disappointed by what I heard: "the church exists for me and my desires and interests." This is also coming from a church that provides a good portion of support to any members desiring to be missionaries. I don't understand the attitude and nature of this college student. They've grown up in this church. They've developed relationships in this church. They've been discipled, nurished, brought up under the godly teaching and they still feel that it's not enough that the church has given them this much, no, now we must complain about the church because of the stipulations and regulations it has put on certain things it will do for it's members. I often wonder if most people go on missions trips to "go" somewhere and do something cool that not many other people have done... or... to actually fulfill the calling to make big of our God. I'm sure there's an element of both sides, but which is the greater?

Please understand that I am nowhere near perfect, but as I'm reading this book, I'm beginning to see it more and more and more. Not just in me, but the believers around me. I don't know if I have a conclusion for this. I don't know what I'm to make of this, but I do know something... David Platt has it right when he says that we have screwed up the Gospel by adding the American Dream to it. We are not the center of the universe, God and His glory is and that's how we should be living.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Calvinism... oh no... here we go

I've grown up with Calvinistic thinking, but never had it given a name until college. When in college, it was explained that there are different people who believe different things within the "sect" of beliefs that I was taught. I believe that in order to own and believe their beliefs, one must research it themselves instead of being spoon fed what they believe.

For those who have forgotten... the 5 points of Calvinism are as the following
  1. Total Depravity-- People are unable to deliver themselves from the bondage of sin
  2. Unconditional Election-- People can do nothing to merit God's choice of them
  3. Limited Atonement--Christ's death atones for the sin of those whom God has chosen
  4. Irresistible Grace-- Those to whom God has given life find his grace in Christ irresistible
  5. Perseverance of the Saints-- Since salvation is God's gift, the Christian cannot fall away from it.
Over the last few months, my beliefs have been challenged, not so much in not knowing what I believe, but why I believe it... or presenting my evidence for such beliefs. The two that have pestered or bothered me the most is #3 and #5. Again, I've been taught these but never really owned them for myself.

Let's start with limited atonement. I so desperately want to believe that there is atonement for everyone... but only if they partake of it. It's there, but there must be an act where the person accepting is willing experience the atonement. I was, what one of my professors coined, a 4 1/2 Calvinist, not 5. Over the last few months, I've been really struggling with understanding this concept.

You may not see the connection, but in my mind there is.

God choose us before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1). God draws people to Himself (John 6:44). If God has already figured out who is coming to heaven. Choosing them. Calling them. Bringing them. Then there is no extra atonement for those He has not called or chosen. We were chosen for belief before the creation process began. Before the utterance of words that created the heavens and the earth, we were chosen. Drawn, if you will, to God. Before I continue, I will say that I do not believe in double predestination (God chooses some for heaven and chooses some for hell), Scripture does not teach that position... not to mention, that Jesus came to save people, not condemn them. God places us all in a place where we are must likely to believe in Him (Acts17:26-28). Sure it comes down to our free will to a certain extent. But like Jeremiah, we were chosen by God for His glory. Does this make sense? (In the back of my mind I'm thinking... I hope I haven't said anything heretical...we'll see)

The second one was perseverance of the saints, meaning "once saved always saved". As I worked through this, I began to see how #3 and #5 are related. Yes, there are verses both sides use to support their position. But ultimately, what it boils down to is, who is control of salvation? Who supplies it? Who does the "calling/drawing"? Does my salvation depend on my actions and choices (once I have been saved)? When Jesus says "No one will snatch you out my Father's hands", He repeats it again, but differently, "No one will snatch you out of My hands." I find it pretty significant that Jesus repeats it in two different ways (repetition is a way Jewish writers show the importance of something) (found in John 10 the Good Shepherd passage). Another thought to go with this, if God said "No one" and a person believes they may take themselves out of the hand of God by being a backslider, are they not a "someone"? And if I follow the logic correctly, Jesus said that "No one of the some ones can get out". Does that make sense?

I also thought about the end of Romans 8. Where Paul lists the items that cannot separate us from the love of God. Among those are listed material and immaterial things... which I believe the point of it is no matter what the issue or problem is, it cannot take you out of your salvation. I'll end with an analogy that I was thinking of.

Imagine a fisherman in a boat, I imagine him in the bright, foggy morning, directing the boat to a special fishing spot. As the fisherman, slows down and the boat rocks back and forth with the settling of the waves, he casts the lure into the water and begins to reel it in. Feeling the jerk of a fish snagging the lure, the fisherman reels in the fish as it fights and struggles against the pull of the fisherman. The fish giving into the fisherman has now put himself under the rule, power, and authority of the fisherman. The fisherman scooping up the fish, detaches the hook and takes a moment to gaze at the beauty of the fish that he has just captured. After a moment or two, the fisherman then takes the fish and places it into the container for storing fish. The fish at that moment has no ability to do what it wants. It is controlled, owned, and at the will and mercy of the fisherman. With that, the fish has no ability to undo what the fisherman has done. He has been captured by the fisherman.

Maybe this idea fits. Maybe it doesn't. But it seems to be a good picture of us and salvation.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Teaching vs. Shepherding

As I worked outside this weekend, I began my offensive against all thorn bushes in our yard... or most of them. I've learned that the thorn bushes (even without movement) will ambush or attack in some way, shape, or form without your knowledge. Once that thorn is in your flesh it becomes a pain and nuisance. Either the thorns keep you from fulfilling your job or the deter you frustrate you.

I've come to a point where I am becoming ultra frustrated with my job. At what point do I stop being a shepherd and become a teacher? And at what point do I stop being a teacher and start being a shepherd? Teaching Bible at a Christian school is almost a thorn in my flesh... is it because I hate it??? By no means! I get two things I love- teaching the Bible and hanging with teens.

But as of lately, I've been struggling with this concept. Maybe it was today, maybe it's a build up of things, but I felt more attacked today because I filled the teacher role and not the shepherd role. As I continue to pursue God's will in my life, it almost seems certain that He has placed a desire in my heart that is not being fulfilled. Every time I challenge the students with an assignment, they find it rather legalistic and an attack on their "personal" relationship with God. I don't know what God has in store for me, but to put it as Switchfoot did, I fell "there's gotta be something more to what I'm living for".

With all this said, I'm not sure what God has in store for me, but I know that God has a good and perfect plan, and that I will become a better person from it. To God be the glory for all that has and will be done... I will trust in Him.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Getting Sick

**As a warning, there are references in this blog about "getting sick"**

This last weekend Heather and I had the lovely "joy" of being home with two sick children. It was interesting to see how our kids differed when handling the "getting sick"part. We could tell that Chloe was "getting sick" because of what she was doing before hand. We would be able to run and set up before the event was about to begin. Yet, in all our effort, we could not tell when Eli was going to "get sick" because it was spontaneously brought on without any control. It was as sporadic as binary code to someone who has no training in that field. We felt awful for both of them, but with Eli, it was most frustrating because there was no predictability. It just happened.

What if we understood sin as "getting sick"? Would that change how we view sin? Would I feel compelled to no longer sin, if indeed, I did view it as a "sickness"? Can you place yourself in Eli or Chloe's shoes if we replaced "getting sick" with "sinning" or "get sick" with "sin". Like sin, their sickness effected every aspect of life, regular habits, relationships (lots of strain on mom and dad), eating... everything.

I wonder what we would do if we understood our sins to be a form of sickness that we CHOOSE. How would we change our thinking... or would we? Or maybe our sin is like a cancer, eating us up and we don't even know it. Perhaps we could all use some self-evaluation and figure out where we stand.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Isaiah 27

We can see all over Scripture the concept of gardening and how it relates to our spiritual life. There is the farmer that spreads the seeds on the different soils. There is the concept of the Vine and branches. There's the one about weeds are like sin and you have to pull out the root in order to get rid of sin. Most of us have hear these more than once. But I found while reading through Isaiah, another one... and this one stuck with me. Maybe because it was new and I haven't heard it for the billionth time this decade. I don't know, but take a look-see.

Isaiah 27:2-5
At that same time, a fine vineyard will appear.
There's something to sing about!
I, God, tend it.
I keep it well-watered.
I keep careful watch over it
so that no one can damage it.
I'm not angry. I care.
Even if it gives me thistles and thornbushes,
I'll just pull them out
and burn them up.
Let that vine cling to me for safety,
let it find a good and whole life with me,
let it hold on for a good and whole life."
The concept I'm pulling from here is a familiar one, but from a different angle perhaps. This is applying the concept found in the passage, so I'm not equating Israel and the Church, but I do find this interesting.

God, again, is the farmer. We, again, are the garden, and in this case, the vineyard. What I am seeing from another angle is the helplessness of garden. If a farmer does not pull the weeds from his garden, it will soon be overrun. It's funny that this is brought up the day after I spent a good hour or two pulling weeds at the school. There are weeds that have thorns. Weeds that cover a wide space of ground. And there are weeds that are sticky and leave gooey stuff on your hands. It wasn't a garden, but none the less, there were massive amounts of weeds being pulled. The ground that is being worked with is at the mercy of the person in charge of it. My yard and landscape are at the mercy of my power to pull those weeds (and in some cases weedwack).

The parallel lies in the idea that we are at the mercy of our God. We truly can control nothing (as much as we think we control the things around us, we don't know the plans of God). God as the farmer, can choose to let us go to the weeds or He can choose to fight for us. And He chooses to FIGHT FOR US. Isaiah says, "I keep careful watch over it so that no one can damage it." God is in complete control. Watching over us. Making sure that we are able to grow into the person He desires us to become.

Let us understand, we are helpless. Unable to save ourselves from the detestable sins we commit every day of every month of every year. We have no ability to reach our full potential without the permission of the farmer. Only the farmer determines if and when the weeds are going to be pulled. But look at what the verses say: "Let the vine cling to me for safety, let it find a good and whole life with me, let it hold on for a good and whole life."

If we want to live a whole and good life, I suggest that we cling to God, our Lord and Savior. This is the way we must choose... "Clinging to HIM for safety."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Isaiah 1-5 Reflections

I've decided to go through Isaiah before school resumes again. I've done this once about 6 or 7 years ago (go through Isaiah). Even though I have only gone through chapter 5, I see a pattern already set by Israel and God. God is immutable (never changing), therefore His justice is the same. Therefore His love remains. Therefore His mercy remains.

Israel on the other hand, shows a tendency to flip-flop between right and wrong, good and evil. In fact, Isaiah even says that they make what is good, evil and what is evil, good. Taking it to a level above that, Israel does things they don't even mean. Hypocritical if you will... a phrase over used, but still drives the point in Christian circles "going through the motions". In fact, God says to them "I'm sick of your religious ways" (paraphrased, but can be shown again in Malachi). This was the point that struck a nerve with me.

I began to ask myself... Am I religious? Am I hypocritical? Do I "walk through the motions"?

Every Sunday... yes, I am religious. Random points through out the day... yes, I am hypocritical. And yes... gosh darn it! I walk through the motions. Even if as I dread saying this, I have come to the conclusion that I preach and do not practice.

And I hate it when people ask me "what do you do for a living?" because I always feel quite guilty, even if I haven't done anything wrong. Maybe it's because I become prideful or maybe I feel it's a reality checker... oh, yeah- that thing I just said, ruined this opportunity for Jesus.

However, with all that said, my challenge to myself still lies. As I sat in Sunday School and listened to my teacher, he presented the question "Why do we not write our covenants or promises down that are directed at God, but do with bills, mortgages, loans, and the like?" His answer, "Because we do not find them to be as important or binding if we don't write it down." So here it is.... the big challenge to myself... the covenants I am attempting to make:

I, Jason Swinehart, am willing to make a covenant to God to do the following:

That's it. I might tackle more later, but right now... I want to specifically make time to put Christ first in my life.