Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Common Misconceptions...(and in some cases just lies)

I was talkin' to a buddy of mine the other day and started just lashing out with a bunch common misconceptions that are often thought about Christianity that are just completely untrue OR made up OR highly exaggerated.

For instance, the idea that every sin (in God's eyes) is equal is just a lie.  People will tell you, "To God, telling a lie is just the same as murder.  To God, a sin is a sin no matter what it is."  In the words of Dwight Schrute....FALSE.  That is not true AT ALL.  Honestly, I don't know where people get this from.  It is not found anywhere in the Bible.  I was taught this from a young age and just sort of accepted it, but after having read pretty much the entire Bible, I now recognize that it is untrue.  I don't know who made it up or why they did it, but let's shatter this myth shall we?

When Jesus is about to be crucified, Pilate is speaking with Jesus pretty much begging Him to defend Himself but Jesus won't respond.  Finally Jesus responds by saying, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.  Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

Did you see that?  Jesus said that those who handed Jesus over to Pilate (aka the pharisees, teachers of the law, and Judas) are guilty of a GREATER sin that Pilate was.  He clearly distinguishes between the severity of sins.  Also, there are times in the Bible where Jesus talks about how those who are sinning but are ignorant of it, will be judged less harshly than those who are willingly, KNOWINGLY sinning against Him.  On top of that, when God gave the law to Moses and the Israelites, He clearly gave different, more severe, punishments to different sins.  I could keep going and giving more evidence, but I think that's enough for now.

Another misconception:
GOD'S WILL IS ALWAYS BEING DONE AND EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS IS PART OF GOD'S MASTER PLAN......false!

This excuse is used all of the time to help cope when bad things happen.  For instance, someone's 6-year-old nephew gets killed and to help cope with it they just say, "Well, it's all part of God's plan.  This had to happen to fulfill God's purposes."  I don't mean to be crass because unfortunately situations like this happen far too often, but they are NOT always God doing it.  We have to realize that we live in a fallen world that, at this point, is being ruled by Satan.  (I'll address this remark in just a second).  God NEVER EVER desires for a woman to be brutally raped and murdered....EVER!  It is not GOD'S WILL for things like that to happen.  If God's will were always being done, than we would be living sinlessly with Him in a heaven-like earth with no pain or suffering.  God's ultimate plan is not some strategy that requires all of the pieces to fall into place with perfect accuracy and with perfect timing.  In fact, He has to keep maneuvering around our shortcomings and failures due to sin in order to bring to fulfillment what He promised in His word.  God did not designate every tragedy to happen just to fulfill his MASTER PLAN.  He's gonna find a way to make it happen, without controlling every single thing that we do.  We have our free will, and unfortunately, most of us act like idiots most of the time.  He is going to forgive that and overcome it for us.

There are many, many other misconceptions about Christianity or about the world, but I don't have enough time to address all of them right now.  I may make a "Part II" segment later, but I want to address this one at least right now:
GOD RULES HEAVEN, SATAN RULES HELL, AND THEY ARE FIGHTING OVER EARTH.
 This is untrue.  Everyone always talks about Satan and his demons as if they are just down there having a ball in hell, torturing humans and making plans of how they are going to screw people on earth.  This is so far off its ridiculous.  When God cast Satan and his crew of flunkies (demons) out of heaven, where did He cast them down to???  Was it hell??? NO!  It was the earth.  God cast Satan and his demons to the earth.  He gave authority over earth to men through Adam.  Adam, like the noob that he was (I'm just playin, I bet Adam was a baller and I'm sure he did a way better job than I could have) gave up his authority and rulership over earth and gave it to Satan when he decided to follow the serpent instead of following the Lord.  When Satan is tempting Jesus in the desert and shows Him the kingdoms of the world and offers to give them to Jesus, he says this: "I will give you all their authority and splendor, FOR IT HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME, and I can give it to anyone I want to."  (Luke 4:6)  He wasn't lying.  Satan has been given all the kingdoms of the world by us, and he can give them to whoever he wants to.  There is also a verse that talks about how the devil is constantly roaming the earth, looking for people whom he may devour.  You can't roam the earth when you are in hell.  There is a huge chasm between hell and earth and heaven.  You cannot escape hell unless God personally pulls you out.  Hell is not the kingdom of Satan, it is the place of torment created FOR Satan and his followers (aka the fallen angels...aka demons).  Hell is Satan's destiny. When Jesus casted out demons, they always begged Him NOT to send them to "the abyss," which is hell.  They DREAD hell.  It is not their secret hangout spot.  It is the place they know they are destined for, and the place where they are trying to drag the people God loves with them.  They know they can't touch God, so they are going to go after the things that He loves.  We HAVE to realize that Satan is at large in this very world that we live in.  There is a major battle going on in our midst.  We can either be pawns sitting in the middle, or, by the grace of God, we can be knights, kings, and queens fighting for the Lord and ushering His kingdom down.  We are not supposed to be trying to escape this world and flee to heaven.  We are supposed to be pulling heaven down to earth.  THAT is God's will.  Let's stop being pawns and start puttin' in work.  Can we please do that?  Can I get an AMEN on that!? Goodness.

Well, that's all I got for now, so until next time....PEACE!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sin Sucks

WARNING: Some of the things I say in this post may seem harsh or insensitive.  I'm going to say them anyway.

When we think about sin usually we think of something that is fun to do, something that is highly desirable.  We wouldn't constantly be sinning if there was no motivation to do it.  Sin is fun.  There, I said it.  It's true.

Here is my basic assessment of sin.  At its core, sin is simply separation from God.  Anything in opposition to God or His will.....is sin, and it causes a literal separation from God.  Sin is the only thing in the world that God cannot live side by side with.

When we sin, we push ourselves away from God and push God away from us.  It causes a massive gap between us and God.  Think of it this way:  you are sitting side by side with God at the dinner table.  Each time you sin, you are welcoming the enemy to come put a chair between you and God and take a seat (and they will take that seat every time, I promise you).  As the sin mounts up, you and God, who were previously enjoying close conversation and fellowship, are sitting more and more chairs away from one another.  You know how it can get at a big table when you go out to eat with friends and you end up being at the end of the table so you can't talk with anyone, especially the people on the other end who always for some reason seem to be having the most energetic, enthusiastic, epic conversations of all time?  Well this is similar, except replace those fun people at the end of the table with GOD, the freakin' king of the entire universe.  Eventually it gets to the point where you have to shout across the table, over the chattering lies of the enemy, to be able to speak with God and, likewise, you have to interpret God's voice through all of that same chatter.  Then finally, it will come to a point where you are so far from God that you can't hear a single thing.  If you were constantly seeing visions before....they stop coming as frequently.  If you were having awesome worship sessions with the Lord that brought you to tears.....those stop.  If you were having dreams sent by the Lord.....those stop.  Your mind starts wandering onto things of this world instead of things of God's kingdom.  In short, it just really, really sucks.  God can pull you out of it, but while in this crappy world of sin, everything sucks.

I don't know about you guys, but when I am in deep sin, I CANNOT hear God's voice.  I stop having any sort of prophetic visions or dreams.  I have no motivation to do Godly things.  I grow lazy, weak, selfish, arrogant, deceitful, and proud.  Then....the worst thing of all....is that I BLAME IT ON GOD!!!  I act like its HIS fault!  I'm like, "God, where are you at!?  I've been sittin' here half-heartedly praying to you for days now and you are nowhere to be found.  I thought you said you'd never leave me or forsake me.  What the heck happened to that? Blah blah blah blah blah."

It takes a big ol' slap to the face from God before I realize how much of an irresponsible joke I am and how it is TOTALLY my fault every time.  God is always reaching out to me, trying to speak to and through me, trying to help me, trying to encourage me, trying to prove Himself to me.  Unfortunately, but honestly, I just am always pushing him away each time I sin.  And yes, I know, we are saved by grace and our sin is washed away by the blood of Jesus..............IF we repent.   IF we repent, our sins are forgiven.  Yeah, there are requirements for the forgiveness of sin.  You don't really hear that preached very often, but it's true.  Everyone just talks about the grace part of it and that's the end of the story, but that is so far off.  I don't want to downplay the grace of God at all.  In fact, He PERSONALLY told me to never underestimate His grace, ever.  So I never will, for all I know He could decide to save all people even if they don't turn to Him out of his unending supply of grace.  I don't know, but I do know that in the Bible He gives us specific requirements for forgiveness of our sins.  For instance, as I said before, we have to repent of them.  That means we have to legitimately TRY (we don't have to be perfect and forever stop but we have to try) to stop committing that sin.  In addition, we have to FORGIVE every other sin against us.  Jesus spoke plainly when He said, "If you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins."  That is Matthew 6:15 BTdub if anyone wants to find it.  It is in other places in the Bible as well.  Forgiving others is a HUGE deal.  Living with unforgiveness in your heart can kill you.

Back to the sin though, it is a big deal.  It creates this massive, unattainable gap between us and God.  Don't you guys get why God hates sin so much????  His hate for sin is only so strong because His love for us is SO STRONG!  Let me say that again in all caps......

GOD'S HATE FOR SIN IS ONLY SO STRONG BECAUSE HIS LOVE FOR US IS SO STRONG!

Our sin separates us from God.  It hurts Him so much when we are in sin because then He cannot abide with us and simply BE WITH US like He wants to.  He loves us so much that instead of just wiping us all out and creating new, perfect, sinless beings, He decided to put all of that sin that we did onto His own son, so that we can be pure before Him.  The sacrifice of Jesus is more than most people realize, but that's a topic for another time.

There is a song by my man Jimmy Needham (if you don't know him look him up and listen to some of his stuff) called "The Great Love Story."  It is all about how our sin has created a massive divide between us and God and how no one was able to fill that divide no matter how hard we tried.........until.......UNTIL......Jesus came.  The song ends with these words....."All glory.....and all honor be......to the God that filled the divide."

Jesus fills that divide for us, but if we keep on living a life of sin, his precious gift of forgiveness to us will be in vain and we will miss out on all of the things God wants to give us.  I am BY NO MEANS saying that we need to be perfect and sinless.  In fact, it is impossible.  I sin all the time.  I hate it, but I do it.  It is a battle between flesh and spirit.  My spirit is willing but my body is weak.  We are BORN into sin and it is our nature, but we have to be truly repentant and truly forgiving of others.  If we are not, then we aren't forgiven.  It's harsh, but it's true.

I just want to finish with this, and I might be calling some people out, including myself, but here it goes.  It may not be the case, but you may as well at least consider it.  With that said, if you feel like God is distant from you or like you aren't hearing from God like you should or experiencing a life of real miracles and signs from God.....if you feel like God is not coming through for you......if you do not see God's promises being fulfilled in your life......then stop sinning.  Just like how having a lack of faith limits what God can do for us, being in sin is the same way.  The more we sin, the less God can operate in our lives.

To sum it all up, sin sucks and we should try really really really really really hard to stop doing it.  Even though it is fun to sin, it is temporary and in the long run it only smokes you and clouds you from communion with God.  Trust me, the instant satisfaction of sin is not even close to being worth sacrificing close fellowship with God.  As always, if you have questions or concerns with any of this stuff, just hit me up.  Until next time.....PEACE!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Story of a Man

This is the story of a man.  He is no ordinary man.  He is my very close friend and current Portland Trailblazer Seth Tarver.  Yeah, that's right.  I'm name droppin'.  My best friend is an NBA superstar....nbd. Ok, so he may not be a superstar....YET.  In fact, he is only currently on the pre-season roster, but I believe in him and I know God is going to do His thing on His behalf.

Before I get into his testimony, I need to share with those of you who don't know Seth at all a little bit about his character.  Because I know he would never make any boast or brag about himself, I feel it is my duty to do it for him.

This may turn into an incredibly long list, so you can skip to the end if you want to, but here it goes.  Seth is totally down for the Lord, incredibly humble, completely truthful, a true gentleman, a huge reason why I am who I am today, EXTREMELY corny yet still hilarious, exceptionally hard-working, infinitely fair-minded, and most importantly...a fierce, FIERCE friend.  (Yes, I did just quote Dumbledore from Harry Potter 4 just now....moving on).  He played basketball the last four years at Oregon State and has major aspirations to play in the NBA.

I was talking on the phone with Seth earlier today and asked him what his most memorable encounter with the Lord was.  I am going to attempt to relay that story right now.

Seth showed up to Grace City Church in Corvallis right at the end of his senior year of college (only a few months ago).  There was a guest speaker that day at the church who Seth has since called the most prophetic man he had ever been around.  I don't know the guys' name and I didn't bother to ask Seth, so I apologize for that.  Anyway, before the service started, the man asked one of Seth's friends whom he had brought to church that day if he could pray for him.  After receiving a welcoming reply, the man prayed for Seth's friend (who I don't believe was even a Christian at the time) and spoke God's word over his life.  He described things about his past, things that only God would know.  He "read his mail" and absolutely rocked the young mans' life (whom I also know but did not interview for this blog) to the point to where he is on fire for the Lord right now because of it.  Essentially, the guest speaker's prophetic words over Seth's friend proved not only God's existence, but also God's deep, passionate, PERSONAL love for him.  This was all a big deal to Seth too because he had been talking to this particular friend about God for basically the last four years.

After hearing all of this stuff being spoken over his friend and seeing the drastic impact it was having, Seth immediately threw up a prayer to God that went something along the lines of: "God, please make this dude pray for me too today."  Sure enough, Seth's prayer was answered when after the service the man asked Seth if he could pray for him as well.

The prophetic speaker basically just spoke on God's behalf, telling Seth things that only God would know.  He recounted every event in Seth's college career in detail.  For instance, the man spoke to Seth in depth about having nagging injuries throughout his entire basketball career at Oregon State (Seth did indeed suffer many such injuries including plantar fasciitis that limited his playing ability greatly).  He commented on Seth having issues with coaches.  He spoke about the times that these things occurred and remarked on the effects these things were having on Seth.

I understand that simply KNOWING something about someone is not very special.  Even if it is impossible for someone else to know, yet somehow they still know, the only thing that does is provide something to stand in awe about, but it doesn't actually help lead them or encourage them at all.  Thankfully, that is not all that God does.  The great part about this prophetic encounter Seth had (and almost every other prophetic encounter for that matter) is that the prophet delivering God's word doesn't stop at just stating what God knows about you.....he continues on to relay what GOD THINKS ABOUT ALL OF IT and WHAT GOD IS GOING TO DO ABOUT IT.

God, speaking to and through this prophetic man, did not stop at acknowledging these things concerning Seth, but he went on to tell Seth what He thought about all of it and what He was going to do about all of it.  In regards to the nagging injuries, God told Seth that he saw him struggling with all of the injuries that limited him greatly, but that He was going to make Seth be able to play freely again, without injury.  God told Seth that he saw him being lied to and dealing with unfair treatment and all of this stuff, but that HE would never lie to him and would never let him down.  He also talked about the disappointment Seth felt with his basketball play during his course of college.  Seth was a premier player coming out of high school and was expected to perform at a much higher level than he was able to at Oregon State.  Seth himself was disappointed in his college career, and God knew it.  Being the great Father that He is though, God encouraged Seth greatly through this man.  The man told Seth that God was going to do far more than he imagined for Seth with basketball.  I don't know what everyone thinks, but to hear God say that He is going to do far more than you can imagine in a particular area of life that is direly important to you is kind of a big deal.

Only a few short months after this all went down, Seth is now on the Portland Trailblazers' preseason roster and God is fulfilling every single promise He made to Seth that day.  God CANNOT be stopped.  His promises are ALWAYS fulfilled and His word NEVER fails.

Seth remarked to me during our little "interview"-- if you can even really call it that.  Honestly, it was just a conversation betwixt friends.  Anyway, he remarked to me that it wouldn't even sound amazing, awe-inspiring, or jaw-dropping to anyone else because God spoke to Him so PERSONALLY through that other people wouldn't understand.  It was BLATANTLY clear to Seth that God knew EVERYTHING Seth had gone through and every thought that Seth had even had.  It was undeniable that God was watching and paying attention to every little detail in Seth's life.  You guys might not understand what I'm talking about so I want to stress this point.  It was UNDENIABLE to Seth.  As in, Seth has 100% certainty.  He doesn't just hope or have faith in it, but he knows it as much as a mathematician knows 2+2=4.

I get exactly what Seth is talking about; it is too hard to explain how crazy it is to be spoken to by God because it is such a PERSONAL experience.  God isn't speaking to the prophet, he is speaking to the people or person the prophet is speaking to, if that makes sense.  I'm sure none of this stuff this guest speaker was saying edified or benefited himself at all.  In fact, it probably didn't make any sense to him, but it spoke DIRECTLY to Seth Tarver, because that is who GOD was speaking to.  If you haven't experienced something like this ever in your time with God, just ask Him for it, and He will give it to you.  If you want Him to speak directly to you, just open your heart, open your ears, and listen.  If you don't hear anything, ask God to send someone else to you to PROVE Himself to you.  God is so full of grace it's ridiculous.  When he says, "ask and you shall receive," He means it.

If you don't know God at all and want someone to talk to or run things by or whatever, just hit me up.  That's all I got for now, so until next time...PEACE!

Non-profit or non-prophet???

I had a good friend once tell me this quote concerning the church: "It's supposed to be a non-profit organization, not a non-PROPHET organization"  (props to the quote from my man Austin Williams).

When he first told it to me, we were both just laughing about it for a little while....then we realized how grave of a quote it really was and how, unfortunately, necessary that quote is for the church to hear and heed.  I feel like the main body of the church today has been ignoring one of the biggest gifts God has given us to be real warriors down here on this earth...that gift being prophecy.  Now don't get it twisted right off the bat.  I'm NOT hating on the church.  Come on people, our battle isn't against flesh and blood but the principalities and rulers in heavenly realms (a.k.a. Satan and demons) DUHHHH.  The devil is working HARD to make us as ineffective as possible for the kingdom of heaven and he is doin' a pretty freakin' good job at it.  I bet if 1000 Christians read this post less than 100 would actually know what I'm talking about when I say that prophecy (and the other gifts of the Holy Spirit) can single-handedly, RADICALLY, change a life.  I can tell you first-hand because it happened to me.

A few years ago I went to this home group (or Bible study type of thing) with these random people that I didn't know nor did they know me.   Everything was cool, there was no weird chanting going on, no incense being burned, no funky robes being worn or anything like that.  It was just regular dudes and regular ladies getting together to "do the stuff."  Now, when I say "do the stuff," I mean to do the things God has commanded us and given us the authority to do via His word in the Bible.  Part of that "stuff" happened to be practicing the gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, tongues, healing, miracles, worship, teaching, and many other ones as well.  At this time, I had no idea what any of this stuff was.

Long story short, the leader of the group asked if they could all pray for me, and I was totally down.  So everyone took about 5 minutes silently praying to God and basically asking Him if He had anything He wanted to say to me or about me.  Then magic happened.....

I promise you, these people had never met me before and I had never met them.  Somehow though, they knew EVERYTHING about me: things I had never told anyone but God, inside jokes between friends and I, even the fact that I play the game Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 64 almost religiously.  I was seriously just freaking out.  Then God started speaking through them telling me things that He wanted to say to me.  It was all TOTALLY encouraging and confirming.  He told me about my past, my present, and what He wanted and was going to do for me in my future.  It was gonzo-nuts.  I COULD NOT stop smiling!!!  I had like an insta-grin for the next 3 weeks.  It absolutely rocked my socks off.  There is no higher form of flattery than the God of the universe taking time to individually speak to you.  It was insane.  The thing that blew my mind the most though, was when they told me that I could do the same things they were doing: seeing visions, having prophetic dreams, and all sorts of things.  It wasn't that these people were special or that I was special, ANYONE who follows Jesus and accepts His Holy Spirit can do all these things and more too.

I could keep talking more and give more detail about that experience, but that's not really what this post is about.  The point I want to get across is that all of these amazing things that are so powerful and, let's just be real, EXTREMELY tight are being wasted all the time because we are too timid or scared to even talk about them in a church let alone actually practice them.  I've dreamed about having super powers all my life and now finally I realize I CAN have them.....DANG!  It's almost too good to be true, but trust me, it all IS true.

You guys might be thinking, "So Braeden, you're telling me that you now prophecy and see visions?" And my answer to that is, "Yes, yes I do, and so can you."

I was skeptical because you see those pastors on TV slappin' people on the forehead yelling, "BAM!" and knocking people over, and it just looks like a WWE match trying to trick people into following Jesus.  Now, I don't know how much of THAT stuff is real and how much is totally exaggerated, but I can tell you with full certainty and from experience that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are real and active and at our disposal today just as much as they were with Peter, James, John, and Paul.

The Bible itself constantly urges us to be pursuing Spiritual gifts.  The very first thing the apostle Paul says when he addresses the issue of Spiritual gifts (in 1 Corinthians 12) is to not be ignorant of them.  Don't ignore them.  He also says that the best way to pursue them is through love.  Basically, if you aren't pursuing them to use for loving purposes, then God won't allow you to use them at all.  I could quote these verses for you, but I'd rather everyone just go read it for themselves.  Oh, and that reminds me, if there is ever anything in this blog that you find erroneous or inconsistent with what you think the Bible says...don't take my word for it.  Read the BIBLE!  Don't read this blog, read the Bible.  It will help you a lot more than I can.

Now in the words of one of America's finest heroes, Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.  If you guys have any questions or anything you want me to answer or address in this blog, just hit me up.  Until next time, PEACE!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Switching Gears

Soooo, last week I posted basically about the fall television season.  Well NOW (after getting the OK from my teacher), I will be blogging about my testimonies, thought, questions, and overall adventure (and I'm not the kind of guy that throws the word "adventure" around lightly) with Jesus.  Being my first blog about all of this stuff, I kind of just want to paint the picture of where I'm coming from, so that everyone else can at least understand to a little bit more of a degree.Let me just start off by saying this: Jesus is the real deal.  I grew up in the church being taught all about the Bible and all that good stuff, but it wasn't until my freshmen year of college (when ultra-ridiculous, literally impossible things in the case of this world started to happen around me) that I REALLY started living fully for the Lord.  Before, I feel like i followed Christianity closely.  Now though, I follow CHRIST Himself fully.  The difference between the two is huge.  All of the time, I hear people talking about different religions and how they are just made up to make people feel good about their lives and blah blah blah, but I know first hand that God is real, that the God of the Bible is real.  How do I KNOW you might ask, well I have seen His power at work with my own eyes.  I've been very blessed to actually get to see impossible things be done by God....things like people with deaf ears INSTANTLY regaining their hearing, people prophesying, seeing visions, and too much crazy/ridiculous, almost unbelievable stuff that it would take forever for me to write them all down.  With that said, no, I have not seen an angel before, but yes, I HAVE seen demons before.  And yeah, they are pretty freakin' scary sometimes, BUT once you know God on at least some sort of level, all that fear goes away, because Jesus is SUCH a baller and so much greater than all of them.  I know, I know.  I sound crazy.  A few years ago I would have thought I was crazy too.  I'm not here trying to convert people into believers or scare people or anything like that.  I'm just trying to keep it real and if that means talking about certain things that might be taboo or whatever, well then I don't care.  I want to end this post with the most important thing there is to know about God.  Amidst all of the miracles, the angels vs. demons, the details of the Bible, and all that other stuff, God and all of Christianity boils down to one thing......love.  It is ALL about love.  MAN, I wish people knew what I was talkin' about!  God = LOVE.  Until next time, peace!