Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Are we able?

Am I capable? Are you?

Sure- in some things we can probably work it out on our own- boiling water, getting dressed, etc.  

But for the big things - being a good spouse, parent, boss/employee, making wise choices, and living out God's call on our life, well - with these things we are pretty incompetent on our own. Without God's capability overriding our incapabilities, we are simply fumbling in the dark.

We may not be capable but God is infinitely so.

Mercy Me has a new song titled 'You are I Am'. The chorus states that our God is the '...one who conquers giants. You're the one who calls out kings. You shut the mouths of lions. You tell the dead to breathe. You're the one who walks through fire. You take the orphans hand. You are the one Messiah. You are I Am.'

The God we worship is the God who created the universe. The one who designed our bodies and the intricate systems that give us life. He is infinitely capable to make his will be accomplished. All we had to do is trust in Him.

-Chesney Szaniszlo

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:57, 58 TNIV)


Monday, October 15, 2012

Forgive and Forget?

We are extremely lucky to be so loved that God paid the price of our own sins with his own blood. Our forgiveness was not free, it came with a very high price which we were not required to pay.

As a pastor I often hear two versions of the Christian idea of forgiveness from people. The first, I think, stems from the belief that since God suffered and died on a cross in order for our sins to be forgiven, we also must either suffer for our own sins or make the person who sinned against us suffer: The idea that when a sin is committed, restitution must be made in order for forgiveness to be given. The second idea I often hear regarding forgiveness is that when we are sinned against (or when we sin against another), the injured party should simply forget the incident and move on as if it didn't happen (the 'ol' forgive and forget' idea).

I don't particularly like either of these ideas regarding forgiveness. I believe the first makes us out to be perfect, as God is perfect, which is patently untrue. Every single one of us is a sinner and makes mistakes all the time. God's perfection is what required restitution, our imperfection does not. The second idea allows people to excuse behaviors that really cannot and should not be excused and sets up future repetition of those 'excused' behaviors.

For me the Christian idea of forgiveness has more to do with acknowledging the pain and hurt of an experience, letting go of the bitterness those experiences can bring, and moving forward in your life not tied to a particular injury or set of injurious experiences. Forgiveness for us, as human sinners who have already received mercy from our gracious God, is more about the individual.

Hanging on to our injuries only makes us bitter which is not good for us or anyone around us.

Imagine forgiveness as laying the sin/hurt/injury on the ground and stepping over it. You have not forgotten it, excused it, or required restitution for it. You have acknowledged it and made the choice to step over it and move on. You have chosen to lay it down, not bury it or drag it with you, and move forward into your future. By laying down a sin that was done against you and stepping over it, you choose to let it inform your future but not control it.

I don't know about you, but that is the kind of forgiveness that I want to work at in  my life.

Chesney Szaniszlo


Monday, October 8, 2012

Hope Floats?

Hmmm, not sure about that one. Sometimes in this world that is fallen and filled with hopeLESSness, hope is more an effort of the will than an effect of emotion.

We throw the word around easily enough:
I hope I get what I asked for at Christmas.
I hope I make a good grade on the test.
I hope my car doesn't break down.
I hope she got my voicemail.

None of the ways we commonly use the word hope really embodies what it means, or should mean, to a Christian.

Christian HOPE is rooted in the knowledge of God's love for us. No matter where you look in the Bible, Old Testament or New, God has constantly found different avenues to show us how much he loves us. God searches after and romances us to his side despite the fact that we are fickle and turn away from him just as constantly as he searches for us.

When all else failed because of our stubborness and refusal to repent, God pulled out his trump card. He sent his son, Jesus, to die on a cross for us. Jesus died a painful and lingering death, descended into Hell and, for a time, was completely and utterly separated from God the Father, so that we might be covered with grace by proxy and never have to experience such a separation.

We didn't do anything to deserve that merciful act and yet God did it for us because he loves us that much.

 [Jesus] presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.
- Romans 5: 6-8 (The Message Translation)

That act is where our great HOPE as Christians comes from. Our hope is based on God's steadfast love for us, not in the fleeting opportunities and desires we find in the world. Christian HOPE doesn't change with the vagaries of culture, it isn't based in us and it doesn't depend on the outcomes in this world.

In order to appreciate this HOPE we need a paradigm shift. Instead of looking at the short-term goals of this world, we need to look at the long-term goals of God. Shifting our focus is an effort of will that helps us to grasp the HOPE of God for the eternal while working to fulfill God's plan for our lives in the temporal.

HOPE is real and available to all of us even in the midst of a fallen world filled with fallen people who have fallen relationships. HOPE is the knowledge that God has a plan for you that will bring about an excellent, eternal outcome no matter the earthly one.

Chesney Szaniszlo

"For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."
- Jeremiah 29:11


Monday, October 1, 2012

loosely held...

It really is pretty silly how worked up we (women and men) get about some things in this life - particularly our kids (and their choices), our careers, our finances, how we believe others perceive us, etc.   Take me for example. Last week there was one day that I just could NOT get my son to focus on his homework and I got ridiculously worked up. In my emotionally agitated state I started to worry not just about that particular homework assignment but all the future homework assignments and his future, in general. I globalized the problems of those moments to his entire future. No wonder the night was so hard and the assignment not getting done! That's a lot of pressure not only on my little boy but on me, as well!

Sometimes we think these 'emotional outbursts' are reserved for women but even if men present their emotions differently, they can get pretty worked up over issues with money, success, or respect, too.

In the moments that we are so incredibly worked up over these issues, the best thing we can do is to step back and remember that none of it belongs to us. It is all on loan from God. Everything we have in this life - our homes, our jobs, our bank account, our spouse, our kids - all of it is God's, not ours. We might be stewards of it, but in the end, it is God's name in the "owner" blank on the contract.

Remembering to hold the things of this life loosely is a good start to following God's will over our own. If we recognize whatever or whomever we are trying to control doesn't belong to us, we don't have to force our agenda anymore because we can recognize that God probably has a better plan than we do.

If we can practice loosely holding the gifts that God has put into our lives during the easy times, it will be a lot easier to get through the troubled times.

Trouble will come...no doubt about that. Jesus himself tells the disciples at the end of the 16th chapter of the Book of John, "...in this life you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!"

Jesus isn't saying that we are going to coast through the trouble when it comes. He is telling us that when trouble comes to look for where he (God) is at work in it and through it. We are to hold the things of this life loosely because it allows room for God to work in and through us and the situations in which we find ourselves.

Hanging on too tightly to anything is a good way to choke the life out of something or someone. Whether it is controlling our kids' choices, refusing to share what we have with others, or putting too much stock in other humans' opinions of us (rather than God's) hanging on to the things of this world with a death grip will only lead to more sorrow. If we want to experience the true joy that God has for us in this life, we need to live life with a loose grip.

Chesney Szaniszlo

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:21