Archive for the ‘Christian’ category

Fear, Love and the Spirit of God

May 26, 2017

Image ID: 86629260 Copyright: photoholic

The apostle, John, wrote, “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) This was written by a man who, when the chips were down for Jesus, scattered in fear with the rest of the apostles. As Jesus tried to tell them of the need for him to die and be raised from the dead, something the apostles did not understand, he predicted they would all forsake him.

“You will all [i]fall away because of Me this night…. (Matthew 26:31)

Peter might have pumped his chest with bravado as he protested that others might leave Jesus, but he would never leave. (Matthew 26:32-33) But, Jesus knew better than Peter knew himself. He predicted that Peter, though swearing allegiance at that very moment, would deny him not once, but three separate times. (Matthew 26:34)

So great was the fear that overtook the disciples that they scattered after Jesus was taken by the Roman soldiers. Even Peter, who didn’t scatter, but stayed back to witness the interrogation, beatings, mocking and humiliation to which Jesus was subjected, denied that he knew him… three times.

Fear is a powerful emotion. It can overwhelm us and cause us to stumble from the path that we know is right. How do we overcome fear?

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When Sin Crouches At the Door

May 20, 2017

depositphotos Image ID: 39910063 Copyright: ectorass

“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:7

We know the story of Cain & Abel. They were the sons of Adam & Eve. They both offered sacrifices to God. Cain gave an offering from “the fruit of the ground”, and Abel of the “fat portions”[1] from the “firstlings”[2] of his flock. (Genesis 4:3-4) All was good, right?

Well, no. God “regarded” Abel’s offering, but didn’t “regard” Cain’s offering, and that is when the problem started. Cain became angry[3], and his “countenance fell”. (Genesis 4:4-5) We know the rest of the story: Cain ends up killing Abel.

Lest we be tempted to think that we don’t need to pay attention to the details of this story because we aren’t like Cain – we would never kill anyone – consider these words of Jesus:

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court….” (Matthew 5:21-22)

Anyone who has ever been angry with another person, might do well to consider the details of the story of Cain and Abel.

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Jumping from the Precipice

May 17, 2017

depositphotos Image ID: 72688071 Copyright: nanka-photo

If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. (John 7:17)

Jesus spoke these words after his own brothers expressed their skepticism about who Jesus appeared to be suggesting he was, the long awaited Messiah from God. (John 7:2-5) He spoke these words to a crowd that was also largely skeptical, wondering who he really was. Some were saying he was a good man, but others were claiming that he was leading people astray. (John 7:12)

I keep coming back to this verse (John 7:17) since I heard Dr. Rosaria Butterfield give her testimony of her journey from liberal, lesbian professor who was highly critical of Christians and Christianity to becoming a believer and later a pastor’s wife and having a ministry of her own.

In her world of academia, she was used to doing research and coming to conclusions before being willing to put her faith in a proposition. That is the academic process.

As she was listening to a sermon after having spent many months becoming friends with a pastor and his wife, reading the Bible, and considering the evidence for Christianity, she made a life changing realization. She was approaching Christianity academically. She was not willing to believe until all of the facts were lined up and could be reduced to a certain answer.

When she heard this sermon in which the preacher read John 7:17, she realized that she had it all backward. (more…)

Would I Be Different Than They?

May 11, 2017


Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him…. John 12:37

Imagine being there when Jesus lived to hear Him speak, watch Him interact with people and maybe even perform a miracle – right in front of you! How could you not believe?!

It’s easy to think these things. But, what would it really be like? Though Jesus performed many signs in front of people, still they didn’t believe Him. People still believed what they were disposed to believe. People saw what they expected to see.

Would we be any different?

Some people heard Him speak and saw the miracles and believed. But more people heard Him speak, saw the miracles and did not believe. In the 1st Century, they accused Him of performing black magic. Today, we might accuse Him of performing ordinary magic, planting people in the audience and doing sleight of hand.

He would most certainly rock our notions of right and wrong, proper and improper, sense and insensitivity. He would challenge our sacred ideas about ourselves and our freedoms, our causes and our individual rights.

He would be too politically incorrect for the left. He would be too progressive for the right.

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:1-3)

God Chooses Us So We Can Choose Him

May 10, 2017

depositphotos Image ID: 438054 Copyright: ingridhs

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide….” (John 15:16)

That seems to settle it. We did not choose Jesus. Jesus chose us. He also appointed us that we should go and bear much fruit and determined that our fruit should “abide”. There doesn’t seem much for us to do. God, the vinedresser, will do His work and cause us to beat fruit.  Right?

But then, why did Jesus direct his followers, “Abide in me”? That is a command, and a command requires a response. A response requires volition. Volition requires the exercise of the will, and that suggests we have a choice to make.

So whose choice is it?

So let’s be clear about this. We didn’t choose Jesus. He chose us, and he chose us to bear fruit… but then He asks us to do something.  He says that we must abide. We don’t bear fruit if we don’t abide:

“As the branch cannot bear fruit but itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

We can’t bear fruit apart from Jesus; we can only bear fruit if we abide in him.

But lest we think that we are left to our own devices, now that Jesus has chosen us, He makes it clear our abiding in Him isn’t enough! He must abide also in us.

Clearly, the relationship is reciprocal.

This is all well and good, but how do we abide in Jesus?

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Fathers commandments….” (John 15:10)

Taking it a step further, Jesus adds:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:12-13)

After God chooses us and appoints us to bear fruit, we must abide in Him and allow Him and His word to abide in us. This requires doing on our part. We are not passive in this process. We must keep God’s commands, and that means loving others by laying down (laying aside) our own lives.

We must do all of this to beat fruit, which is what God appointed us to do.

And here is the kicker: if we don’t abide in Jesus, we die because a branch can’t live apart from the vine. It withers and dies when it is disconnected from the vine. It’s good for nothing but to be burned. (John 15:6)

So – Jesus chooses us out of the world, but we have to engage Him in that choice by exercising our own choice to abide in Him, by exercising our own choice of letting His word abide in us, by exercising our own choice to abide in love, which means following His example of laying down our lives for others.

Yes, Jesus chooses us … so that we can choose Him.

God’s Purpose is Accomplished – Even When People Reject Him

May 9, 2017

depositphotos Image ID: 1739451 Copyright: tockasso

Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my father.”  (John 15:22-24)

These words convey a stark reality that is not pleasant to consider. We might assume that Jesus was speaking of the Jews when He spoke these words, but we would be wrong. Jesus was speaking of the “world”. Just before Jesus spoke the words quoted above, He said:

“If the world[1] hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

These are curious things coming from Jesus. The import of what Jesus says here is that the world is ordered in opposition to Jesus and God the Father. And even when people reject Jesus, God’s purpose is fulfilled.

In other places, we see Jesus saying very different things. For instance, Jesus said elsewhere, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) So, we might be confused when we see Jesus implying that he came to hold people accountable for their sins.

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When the Bible Comes Alive – What is Your Story?

May 5, 2017

depositphotos Image ID: 61118525 Copyright: 4masik

How many people have experienced reading the Bible, or trying to read the Bible, before “becoming a Christian”? I did. I took a World Religion class as a freshman in college, and in that class I read the Bible for the first time. I have distinct memories of it.

I am not unintelligent. I was second in my law school class. I say that not to boast, but to make a point. Human intelligence is limited, and in particular, it is limited by our perspective.t

Our perspective is that of a finite being who lives a very, very short amount of time and, then, dies.What can we really know of an infinite God? On our own, given our limited perspective on a very small planet in a small solar system in a vast universe, what can we understand of the Maker of it all? In our 100 years, if we are fortunate to live that long, what we can we really know and understand of the 13.7 billion years of the existence of the universe. From our perspective, we have learned a great deal, but compared to what?

We have only to compare to ourselves – other people with limited perspectives as our own!

And if there be a God of this incredibly vast universe, this God would have to be greater still. He would have to be “other” than the universe to have created it. Things don’t create themselves. This material universe filled with matter and space and existing in time would have to have been created by a timeless, space-less, matter-less (immaterial) God who exists on a “plane” other, outside of and beyond the material world we live in.

The words and thoughts we have to define what that other existence might be like are wholly inadequate to describe it because it is completely other than anything we know. We can only describe it in terms of our existence bounded by time, space and matter, yet we have some sense of something beyond, like prisoner who spent his whole life in a small cell, who sees the sunlight streaming in through the bars of the window above him,  but has never seen the sun.

So what does this have to do with reading the Bible?

I realized as I read it in that World Religion class in college that, if God did exist, He would have to reveal Himself to us. We could not reason or research or experiment our way to knowledge of God. That would be like trying to find a painter in the canvass of a painting.

God would have to reveal Himself to us.

And, if God made us, He would know how to communicate Himself to us in a way that we could understand. In my experience, I have learned this to be true. What’s your story?

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