Thursday, September 3, 2009

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” - (Genesis 1:26-27, NIV).

This truth from the Word of our Holy and Heavenly Father sheds light on the fact that we, human beings, were created in the image of God. An image is a replication; it is a representation of something. Not only are we created in the image of God, we are, in turn, created in the likeness of God as well. This means that we are like God; it means that we resemble Him in the fact that we, as humans, share some similar characteristics with our Creator. However, we do not posses every quality that God possesses, of course. Human beings, let alone any other creature, do not posses God’s omnipotence, omnipresence, righteousness, divinity, or perfectness. In fact, we posses nothing relatively close to such characteristics. However, we do posses similar qualities. These qualities that can be claimed by most humans are nothing compared to those that God possesses, but they are close; though they are simply not as intense and perfect as those claimed by our Heavenly Father.

We, as humans, have souls, which allow us to form a deep, personal relationship with our Savior and Lord. We also have free will, meaning we have the ability to choose which path we desire to follow: the narrow path leading to life, or the wide path leading to death. We can either pursue God or the world of evil. God does not predestine who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven and who will not. He gives us the ability to be decisive. Although God is inviting us to embrace Him and guiding us to follow Him, we are the ones who must decide whether or not we will follow. He does not force us to do anything. Two other characteristics that we have in common with God are those of wisdom and knowledge. We are the only part of God’s creation that can successfully comprehend right from wrong, good from evil, and to make intelligent choices that will determine the outcome of a situation. We, as human beings, also inherited the ability to obtain knowledge to a complex extent that surpasses that of any other creature. In a sense, man is almost too intelligent for himself, in that he has acquired a magnitude of knowledge over time that any one individual could not possibly oversee or take in. As human beings, we can also comprehend an overpowering and consuming sense of compassion and love for others. However, this love cannot match the intensity of God’s love for His creation.

We were once apart from God, spiritually and mentally opposed to Him due to our evil behavior. But we have been reconciled by God through Christ’s physical body through death and suffering in order that we may be presented as holy in God’s sight, without blemish. This truth comes from Colossians 1:22-23. Once we are saved, the cleansing blood of Christ flows upon us and covers us. Our Father is pleased with us. Our lives are free of condemnation, as Romans 1:8 proclaims. Because of this, God sees Jesus in us since we are identified with Christ. Jesus has presented us as holy and pleasing to God. Because of Jesus’ death, there is no accusation against us, the saved, from God. This goes along with us being created in the image and likeness of God. We are shaped and fashioned in His likeness so that we may be pleasing to Him once we are reconciled with Christ; so that we can worship Him and glorify His name. We are His children. Therefore, we are supposed to run to God; we are supposed to run Home to our Father. As a child is born in the likeness and resemblance of his daddy, we are the children of God, created in the likeness of our Heavenly Father.

This quality of being created in God’s image and likeness is an unimaginably satisfying and incomprehensible honor that we humans cannot even come close to deserving. As a result, we must not take advantage of Christ’s immense sacrifice to save us. God saved us because He loves us more than anything. He desires to have relationships with His children. We must embrace our Father and obey Him by living the brightest lives we can live; meaning, we must be examples for Christ and show how amazing it truly is to have a Savior that loves us more than can be conceived by anyone. We must be examples so that others may know the joy that comes from having a divine romance with our Savior and Father. We must lift our hands and live out loud to show our satisfying love for Christ. This is the rejoicing honor, not responsibility, that comes from being a child of God created in His image and likeness.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Unorganized, Thoughtful, and Deeply Shallow Expeditions and Diaries of Louis & Mark

There once was a young man from Usual. His name was Francis. Francis spent his childhood learning about how to be a usual. In the community of Usual, the residents live just a usual life with usual clothes, usual houses, usual yards, they even have a usual accent. Francis, in the meantime, was in the process of living a "usual" lifestyle. However, Francis seemed to think that something just didn't seem right about what he was learning. In fact, one day he was lost in his thoughts on Normal Mountain, when someone familiar came and sat down next to him. Francis had seen this person before, but he couldn't quite figure out who it was. After a short time, the man finally broke the silence. He introduced himself as Champ of Character, and told Francis about how he grew up in Usual and had been taught how to live a usual life and he just knew there had to be something more than this to life. So he learned about the land of Character, where he learned you could live your life to the fullest and how one could make a greater impact on the world.
Francis was speechless. He ended up talking with Champ for hours about this land out of the ordinary where you didn't have to be usual where he didn't have to be told how to live his life.
So Francis traveled back to the land of Character with Champ, and while they traveled, he could just imagine this vast, extraordinary land where his dreams were free to prosper.
Finally, Francis can see the entrance in the distance to this land of Character, but he begins to get nervous. What if they only let people into Character if they are already powerful beings? What if the only ones let in are the ones who are extraordinary? These thoughts haunted Francis so bad, that he was to the point where he just wanted to turn back to the land of Usual where he could let his dreams die and live in envy of those who could be fortunate to live in Character.
However, when he looked up, Francis saw the beautiful, massive gateway that led into the land of Character. Above the golden gateway was etched a phrase that said, "There are no extraordinary people, just ordinary people who do extraordinary things." Francis thought of this quote everyday for the rest of his life in Character, and he reminded himself that he could do whatever he wanted to do.

Hello, this is a segment by Louis & Mark. This is the very first passage of a weekly series that will take place. In this series, we will say some funny stories, have intellectual discussions about the world around us, and motivate others on how to live a great life.
I hope that upon reading this, you will be excited about each week's installment.

Why Not America?

I am often presented with a fairly discombobulated question; a question that fails to offer one the opportunity of approaching it with a simple answer. This question is often the derivative of an ill-minded attempt to disarm a man of his thorough, yet vague, intentions. It is simple in stature, and complex in meaning.

It is as follows: "Why do you want to help Africa, and not America?"

This question contains the verb "help." The word help simply means to offer aid and assistance to.

Here comes the complexity:

Before one can be presented with such a question, he or she must have a publicly-acknowledged desire to help people; in this case, the people of Africa as a whole.
The continent of Africa is made up of 54 countries. Many of these 54 countries, such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda, Rwanda, and Sudan, have been torn and battered due to years of conflict. The many irrelevant reasons for a decent number of these conflicts may be traced through the histories and beginnings of the settlement of the regions. Take Rwanda for an example:
Rwanda, many hundreds of years ago, was populated by the Twa people. That is, until the Bantu-speaking Hutu people supplanted them. Soon after, the Tutsi people, another Bantu group, immigrated into the area. The three groups began to disperse into smaller states, and over time, their area increased. Eventually, the Tutsi had organized themselves into a hierarchy, ruled by the Mwami, or king. All people of Rwanda were to pay tribute to him. At this time, distinctions and borders between the groups were permeable.
Things began to change for the people of Rwanda during the Colonial Era. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, the German Empire and the Belgians were each given a sum of land. Each nation was given part of Rwanda. Soon enough, the Germans took control. During this time, the Germans divided the people of Rwanda by using irrelevant distinctions. In doing so, their assumptions allowed them to favor the Tutsis. They decided that the Tutsi people should form the superior ruling class, and the Hutu people should be the underclass. This is the change that sparked the beginning of the hostility between the two groups.
At the most undesirable time, the Belgians gained control by accepting the League of Nations Mandate of 1923. Their rule brought solidification to the division of the Hutus and the Tutsis. Thus the Tutsi people were but in charge and considered the superior group.
Soon after, many reforms took place in the territory. From then on, racial tensions rose and increased. In turn, this led to violent declarations of independence, civil war, and genocide.
The Rwandan genocide of 1994 was sparked by racial tensions and pure, evil hatred. It is believed that the Hutu militia, Interahamwe, assassinated President Juvenal Habyarimana and blamed it on the Tutsi rebels, just so they could have an excuse to begin slaughtering and murdering innocent Tutsi people and their Hutu collaborators. The result of this intolerable act of pure evil was the destruction of a countless amount of human being's lives. Well over 800,000 human beings were slaughtered (it is even believed that the number could have exceeded far over 1 million). That is more than 6 men, women and children murdered every minute of every hour of every day. 500,000 women were brutally raped and sexually assaulted. 80,000 people were orphaned; and 50,000 are presently homeless due to the genocide. All of this, and much more, occurred within a period of 100 days.

Complex histories such as the one of Rwanda can contain the reasoning for the occurrences of many of the conflicts that scar Africa's surface.
Neighbors turned against neighbors, and friends against friends in Rwanda. The two "groups" weren't even different. The only difference worth mentioning is their division throughout the Era of Colonization. This division was only made because a group of obsessed "scientists" measured noses. It makes no sense.

Back to the question:

I don't know about you, but I see nothing of the sort in America's history. No genocide. The hatred isn't displayed in the same manner; it isn't even as great and widespread. Africa, overall, has a history of violence that is unheard of in America today. We, as Americans, witness atrocities, yes; but are they as violent as the ones witnessed in Africa? I'm afraid not.
In America, we have discrimination, poverty, and the genocide of unborn babies. These are well worth acting on. However, our government is more equipped to combat poverty than the destabilized governments in Africa. Acts of evil, such as murdering babies, are intolerable. But who is going to arrest or kill the culprits? The justice system is different in America, because we actually have one. We can't pick up a rifle and start shooting, like Cobus Claassens effectively does in Africa. The governments in Africa are often the ones committing the crimes. The scale of violence and atrocities committed throughout the whole continent is immense, especially compared to the United States. We don't see our government attacking it's people. We don't see full scale genocide on our soil. We couldn't imagine seeing 2 million American citizens being murdered and slaughtered in 3 months....or at all. Methods such as rape, decapitation, throwing the elderly onto rocks, capturing children and turning them into monsters, grenade-ing full church sanctuaries, slicing wombs and clubbing infants, and randomly chopping fleeing civilians, aren't heard of here, or anywhere near us. Most Americans seem to block out the unimaginable scenes of extreme poverty, disease, and violence that unfold throughout Africa every day. A majority of African people have no voice. The West is the only force able to change their situations, and they fail to listen. They fail to act. WE fail to act. The world said, "Never again." Unbelievable.

Don't get me wrong. I will do what I can to help anyone. I have a heart for all people. I am writing this because many Americans often question one's desire to help people in other nations, especially if that person's complete focus is on that nation's people, rather than on the people of America. And that is a euphemism. No, not all Americans do this, but many do, and, unfortunately, I have personally experienced it. I believe in helping all people.

That is my answer.

(This is a segment by Louis & Mark. This is the very first passage of a weekly series that will take place. In this series, we will say some funny stories, have intellectual discussions about the world around us, and motivate others on how to live a great life.
I hope that upon reading this, you will be excited about each week's installment.)