Jul 21, 2017 4:06 PM
Life stretches you.
Three words that combine into a common saying—easily rolled off the tongue in precise moments of reflection—which belie the pain threading them together. Experience grows. Empathy increases. Wisdom...comes. But, to the one on the rack crying out for it to stop.
It is a common saying for common circumstances. Until the pain is yours. Then it is unique to you.
If circumstances in your life are stretching you beyond your ability to cope, be encouraged that God has not left you alone. He does not desire suffering or defeat for you. In fact, He has always designed a path to victory for those who trust Him.
When God created the earth and its universe, He did so with man on His mind. Everything spoken into existence was particular to the needs of and for man’s life and pleasure. God specifically designed the world to run from the words He uttered so that He needn’t re-create the world everyday. Having established the perfect environment, He made man and declared him sovereign over the creation. Man wasn’t treading water on day one or gasping for oxygen on day two. God had a plan.
He still has a plan. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “ ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (NIV)
Takeaway #1. God is not the problem. He is the answer.
The important thing is God provided for our success from the beginning. He didn’t ask us to do something that He hadn’t provided the means for us to accomplish it. Life is hard, and if you are a Christian, you are living in enemy territory. But Jesus said to cheer up because God’s Kingdom is at hand, close by ready to help. If you’re not a Christian, God’s Kingdom is close by, ready to help. Acts 2:21 states that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. This is a continuation of God’s promise in the Old Testament (Psalm 50:15 is one example) to call on Him and He will answer.
Takeaway #2. Knowing what God’s Kingdom offers requires knowing God.
Knowing about God and knowing God enough to love Him are two different things. Embrace this challenge staring you down as the doorway to a new way of life. Take charge of your circumstances by taking the time to read the Bible and applying what it says to you.
Takeaway #3. Your attitude toward challenges will determine your success or failure.
I like the advertisement for the Marines: pain is weakness leaving the body. Let the word strengthen you for life and its...moments. “Just believe,” Jesus said to Jairus, and Jairus’ daughter was raised from the dead. Anything is possible with God. (Matthew 19:26) Not knowing what God is about hinders our ability to receive what we need.
Here is a verse that you can pray and speak aloud over yourself: I am being filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. (Colossians 1:9 paraphrased)
Image by Tim Mossholder courtesy of StockSnapi.o
Jun 2, 2017 6:14 AM
One of the best tips for writers and speakers is to know thy audience. In Luke 5:17 we read that one day when Jesus was teaching, teachers of the law and Pharisees from every town in Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem came to hear him. Jesus knew His audience and had a message just for them.
Jesus was so popular that He drew crowds wherever He went. Strange happenings followed. Miracles like the lame walking, the blind regaining their sight and lepers being healed were stirring up talk that this teacher might be the Messiah. The news concerned the religious hierarchy, and they came to see for themselves this famed miracle worker and hear what He had to say to their church members. They didn't know that He had a message especially prepared for them.
The verse states that the home in which Jesus was teaching was packed with people, inside and out, and the Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there listening to Him. When the roof was opened and a paralytic was lowered on his mat through the roof by his friends, it probably caused some excitement. But not as shocking, at least to the religious experts, as Jesus’ next words. He said, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:20 CEV)
The religious professionals were offended, but too politically savvy to say so out loud. "Who does this guy think he is?" they thought. "Only God has the power to forgive sins!"
But Jesus knew their thoughts, and presented to them the message He wanted them to hear. “Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk? But now you will see that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.” Jesus then said to the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk home.” (Luke 5:23-24)
Jesus is able to speak to us at the point of our need in a way packaged just for us. He is a personal God who is able to speak our language, speak through our culture and communicate with us despite our idiosyncrasies. He loves us and takes the time to speak to us in the way we know with the message we need to hear.
But do we listen in prideful arrogance? Does the message offend us? It takes courage to accept the truth about ourselves, and it takes humility to be taught. Some of the religious experts let His words sink into their traditions and melt their resistance to His message. Others hardened their stance. The choice was theirs. Today it is ours. Let God speak into your life this moment. It will be a message of love, forgiveness and freedom, and just like the paralytic, you will rise up with a strength you didn’t have before.
If you would like an opportunity to help others meet God in their language and through their culture, consider donating to Wiconi Living Waters Family Camp. It is a ministry that we support where Native families have the chance to hear the Gospel together in a way that ministers to them.
Image by Jad Limcaco courtesy of StockSnapi.o
Apr 19, 2017 6:14 AM
Success starts with a dream. It grows by believing in the dream. It humbly proceeds by patience and hard work.
But patience is the longest word I know.
My earliest experience with the word is negative. It involved waiting, waiting and...more waiting. As an adult, when the Holy Spirit instructs me through James 1:4-8 to "let patience have her perfect work," I inwardly cringe, the memory of the word washing over me.
But a biblical definition of patience does not mean to tolerate a delay just for the saintly sake of tolerating. It includes the idea of cheerful expectation and the word constancy (hupomonē). This is the clue to what the work of patience is. The last half of the verse above states, "...that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." It implies that the work of patience results in receiving. But the receiving comes through testing out your faith: "knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience." James 1:3 If you are going to try your faith by believing for something, then expectancy and constancy must go to work.
Constancy means the freedom from change or variation; stability; the quality of having a resolute mind; the quality of being unchanging or unwavering. It carries the idea of remaining in one place, steadfast.
Remaining is a lesson in disciplined focus. Circumstances, a fixture in our physical existence and largely under the control of others, can provide hurdles, setbacks or roadblocks to our success.
Joseph was a man plagued by setbacks. After testing out his belief in his dream on his family, he was sold into slavery by his brothers, rose to the position of trusted servant only to fall by being imprisoned, and finally rose from prisoner to second in command over all Egypt. Talk about a rollercoaster of high and lows. But Joseph knew the art of remaining.
Maybe your struggle is not a series of setbacks but more like an epic battle. When Joshua led his people to the Promised Land, victory and blessing was not what immediately greeted them. The land was seething with enemies who were not about to move over and make room for their homecoming or their strange God. Joshua and his people had to fix their gaze on something else and calmly enact the discipline of remaining steadfast while edging toward their goal.
But what did they focus on and how did Joseph, Joshua and the Hebrew people "remain?"
Joseph focused on the dream God gave him. Joshua and the Hebrews focused on the words God had spoken to them. They believed and would not surrender their confidence in what God had revealed. They remained in one place, the place of trust. They were constant and unwavering in their belief that the words were true and the Giver of their dreams faithful to do what He promised. They thought about the promise, spoke it out loud and refused to throw it away.
These steps are the secret to success. This kind of focus works whether you are a Christian or not. It is a principle of our created world. But— lasting success, void of unrest, is only found in Jesus.
Whatever your setbacks, whatever your struggle, be encouraged that success can be gained. Spend the time to allow God to speak to you as you read the Bible and hold on to what He tells you. Paul said it this way, "Then do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of patience, that having done the will of God you may obtain the promise." Hebrews 10:35-36 LITV
Jesus said it like this, "If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, whatever you desire you will ask, and it shall happen to you." John 15:7 LITV
What dreams and goals are you hoping to achieve? How has staying focused on God's word helped you?
Share your story or tips in the comment section below. If you enjoyed this post, please like and share.
Image by William Stitt courtesy of SockSnapi.o
Apr 3, 2017 4:39 PM
Our newest interactive study comes out next week! Be watching for a chance to win a free copy.
Here's a sneak peek:
It is important that you are aware of the areas that Satan attacks philosophically. He attacks the truth, the reality of experience or history, and language. He attacks these areas generally as you will see in the following philosophies and individually as we see in his dialogues with Eve and Jesus in Genesis 3 and Luke 4 respectively. He rephrases and devalues truth, twists reality and causes you to doubt what God said. In two words, he lies. In four, he is a liar. He will continue to lie to you as long as you will allow it. He has a goal he works toward diligently: to steal, to kill and to destroy. The method he found that works is to use your mind and intellect against yourself. You complete the process by simply acting on the false philosophies and doubt.
-From Is Jesus God? Introduction to Lesson 5." A Handbag of Philosophies."
Dec 26, 2016 2:10 PM
How do you pack thirty-three years of marriage, five kids (three now with spouses) and ten grandchildren in 900 square feet of space?
I am learning. I’ve moved to a small cottage on the water, but sometimes I feel like I left my heart behind in the “little red house” where my husband and I forged a new life together— not his and hers but ours. It is where we raised our children and put down serious roots.
I prayed to receive that house, and a verse adorns a mural my daughter painted on the wall that guided me and encouraged me while I waited for my faith to be made sight and I stood in that house.
Now I stand in this one, the one I didn’t know I wanted, but is such a blessing that I have to pinch myself to realize this is mine; God gave this to me.
As I sit enjoying my morning coffee, chaos surrounds me. The moving clutter needs to be reigned in before my family descends upon this little cottage for Christmas. Cookies, galettes are the desired tradition, need to be baked. Presents need to be wrapped, er, bagged this year, sorry. But hot mug cupped in my hands, my attention is drawn outside my windows to the beauty and peace this house is nestled into.
Deer feed under my oaks and browse the point of land forming a cove to the west. A fox gingerly walks the frozen water. Fat juncos hunker on the deck railing waiting for a nuthatch to finish its turn at the feeder, and Canadian geese plow the gray sky searching for a place to land.
I know I have a busy day looming. But I pause to thank my Lord, my Creator, for providing for me. His mercy and grace is unlimited.
I don’t know what you are hoping for or what your heart needs this Christmas. I do know that Jesus is able to give you peace amid chaos; He is able to provide for you. Open the Bible and read His words to you. Be filled with the joy of His presence, His beauty and peace before the rush of a new year overtakes you.
Joyeux Nöel and Bonne Annèe from all of us at Flying Eagle.
Oct 1, 2016 3:08 PM
When the Israelites stood watching Pharaoh's army advance, they melted in fear. Surrounded by desert and faced with the sea, they began to doubt. Freak out may be a better visual. But God already had a way of escape planned. They just needed to do what He said. Move on.
Years later when Joshua stood on the banks of the Jordan at flood stage, he told the priests carrying the ark to step into the water. Rushing water met their eyes and ears but faith in God's command moved them to put both feet in, to commit, and once they did the water stopped flowing, and they too crossed on dry ground.
The thing I’m learning about faith is that it is crazy scary. It seems to make no sense— at least to my senses.
When I read that the Israelites crossed over the sea on dry land, I failed to understand the danger surrounding them. But now I see it in my mind. The Pharaoh and his army is behind them. It is too late to turn back. The water is a wall on either side. This is not the gentle flowing rain sound of water that is created by water fountains or the “rain wall” at a restaurant or doctor’s office. It is an ocean of water being held back. Unless God quieted those waters, it may have been more like a roar. In any case, it was big and scary looking. But it was an awesome miracle.
Stepping into a river at flood stage? I can't swim. The thought, the sight, the sound would terrify me because even good swimmers drown in swift currents.
And that is the point. God made a way through even with danger on all sides. When we say He will make a way where there is no way, this is what I think of, this lone dry path, though to all our physical senses, danger, impossibility, lurks on all sides.
It makes no sense to start walking into an ocean or a rushing river and expect to continue walking unless God told you to do it.
Right now I am walking into my ocean. I have resisted the fear, continue to resist the fear, and I am trusting God’s word to me. My hope is in Him alone to make a way though dangers seem to stare me down. Faith in God and in His word is the dry path under my feet. His love and mercy are my wings.
What ocean are you about to enter? Perhaps you have walked safely through and have encouraging words to share for those of us who have just put both feet into the water? We’d love to hear from you.
Image by Austin Neil Courtesy of StockSnapi.o
Mar 4, 2016 12:04 PM
#Downton Abbey is almost over. I can’t believe I’ve been watching a nightly soap opera for so long. But I loved it!
My daughters and I phone, text, message and re-live over coffee the week’s show. What on earth is going to replace Lady Mary on Sunday night?
I had no idea I would like or come to need that time in front of television or computer to get my Abbey fix. I, just like the Israelites slaving away making bricks in Egypt, was unaware that something wonderful was waiting for me.
The Israelites suffered in Egypt for 400 years until they cried out to God, and He delivered them. Deliverance from slavery was wonderful, but God had much more in mind for them. He wanted them to be His people. He traveled with them in the form of a cloud. His presence was with them everyday first in a cloud, then in the Temple.
One day, however, God left them. It is important to realize that they left Him first. They chose to follow other religions, other laws and cultures. God tried to warn where this life choice would lead, but they didn’t listen. They thought their way was wiser.
Soon they mourned the loss of His Presence and help. But God is mercy and love. This time He came Himself to free them from a life of slavery to sin. Jesus promised never to leave them.
The Israelites lost what they didn’t know they needed, and some have found it again, better than ever before.
His offer extends to us. His presence is as close as your asking Him to come near to you.
I have no idea what will replace the Crawleys in my life, but I know there is nothing that will replace my relationship with Jesus. That is a promise Jesus made to me. He will never leave, never let me go.
Jan 26, 2016 11:56 AM
A Christian needs thoughtful pauses.
Abraham heard God’s word to him. After his father, Terah, passed away we read, “Now the Lord had said to Abram…” (Genesis 12:1 NKJ), and Abraham obeyed (except that Lot was not left behind?).
God would talk with Abraham several times. It is written that “Abraham called upon the Lord.” They had a relationship, and Abraham knew what God wanted to do in his life.
During one conversation recorded in Genesis 15, Abraham tells God his heart’s desire to have a child, and God assures him that he will have one. Did Abraham run to tell his wife Sarah? Did he keep these precious promises hidden in the depths of his hope?
We do not know. But one day– Chapter 16– Sarah presents Abraham with a solution, an answer to his prayer. To the human eye, to the yearning heart, to one relying on their own wisdom and discernment, it seemed like a good idea.
Enter the need for a thoughtful pause.
Abraham did not know how God was going to deliver the answer to his desire. Asking God if Sarah’s idea was the way to go would have been the wise way to proceed.
But we’ve all done what Abraham did: forge ahead in well-meaning ignorance. And we, like Abraham, probably paid the price.
Knowing God’s Will is a free resource we’ve put together to help you take those thoughtful pauses in life. Click on the image, and it will take you to our resource page. Follow the directions for the free download.
Jan 4, 2016 5:32 PM
There are two pictures of seascapes hanging on the wall. One is of a sailboat heading out of a tree-lined harbor, its reflection mirrored in the water. Above it, windswept clouds are white against a bright blue sky. The other is of a weathered lighthouse like the Rock of Ages lighthouse near Isle Royal. The painted lighthouse overlooks a line of sailboats as they pass on the blue green bay.
Below these paintings lies my father, his features reflected in those gathered about him in the dimly lit hospice room. He is, like the sailboat in the picture, preparing to leave. But the light guiding us shines not from a lighthouse but a throne.
The year is coming to a close, and with it, the end of an era. As the ball drops in Time Square, my father rises, calm, at peace and totally free. I constricted by time, begin a new year; my father, free from every burden, begins a new life– a life built on the Rock of Ages.
Photo courtesy of porbital @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Jan 3, 2016 7:27 PM
The sky is blanketed with murky gray clouds, and there is a bite to the wind. This is not the sixty degree sunny Christmas the weatherman predicted. But this is Michigan. We’re used to the weather having a mind of its own.
The Christmas at my house didn’t go as planned, and it wasn’t just the weather. The morning dawned with a phone call from the hospital. My father had arrived there by ambulance and was seriously ill. I left the house and last minute prep for our family Christmas in the hands of my teenagers. Sitting in the ICU, presents, cookies and decorations faded into the background. I needed to concentrate on saying good-bye to my father.
I thought of his gifts under the tree that he would never open. He would never receive the sweater jacket I bought or any other gift from me. But he was about to receive the best gift anyone can get: eternal life.
A relationship with Jesus and living your life after death with Him is a gift you do not want to leave unwrapped.
It does not matter if your Christmas or your life is not picture perfect. What matters is what you believe about Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life! He who believes in Me, though he die, yet he shall live.” (John 11:25 MKJ)
If you have never asked Jesus into your life, don’t hesitate or ignore His invitation. Perfect is an illusion when it comes to our attempts to achieve it. Perfect in the hands of Jesus is heaven.
Dec 2, 2015 6:31 AM
Nov 26, 2015 3:30 PM
Wishing everyone a #HappyThanksgiving!
Someone just asked me how my life has changed with the passing of my husband. I replied, "Completely." But one thing I wanted to share with you is that even in the most happy times, surrounded by family and friends, there is a sadness. I realize this is a sadness that will never leave me because it is the sadness of missing someone. That has no cure until we are reunited. The result is I've lost some of the joy of living an earthly existence.
But that is one side of the story. The other is this: my joy in the Lord has increased. An overwhelming gratefulness is blooming in my spirit. I say blooming not to be poetic but to describe it. The work of the cross is has more meaning for me, and each day I wake up, I am closer to the day of having everything put back the way it is supposed to be. The God of this universe, the Creator of all things, wants me to live an everyday life with Him and He has made it possible.
Some who are grieving resent God, and everything about Him. But I can't. It is God who made the way for me to have eternity surrounded by loved ones...forever. I have much to be thankful for, and I love Him who loves me more.
So if today amid the festivities and smiles, your thoughts wander to someone missing at the table and your soul longs for their company, I am with you. I wish I could give you a hug, but it is better if you let Jesus whisper His love in your heart.
Nov 19, 2015 12:42 PM
Oct 20, 2015 11:50 AM
Christianity has its own vocabulary. I learned it the hard way by hearing it and hoping for someone to enlighten me. Of course this was way before Google.
Still, I thought it might be helpful to give you a rundown on some of the most used words from an inside the pew perspective.
Born again. Not a Matt Damon movie but a state of being. This is the result of asking Jesus into your life. It is like starting over but now Jesus is on the inside of you. In Revelations Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock…” The door represents your heart. I know there are many theologians who say that you don’t need to be born again, but Jesus has always been in the business of making stodgy theologians look stupid. (John 3:1-21)
Salvation. This is a noun not a verb. There is nothing you can do to earn it. But what is it saving you from? Hell. (Yeah, it’s a real place but it doesn’t have a zipcode. More on that in a later post.) The nasty truth is you are a creature of sin (see below). God is pure goodness, HOLY. Sin and HOLY don’t mix. This is why we are separated from God. To change this, Jesus, who is God in a flesh and blood form, came to help us get clean or forgiven. How? By his blood. As weird as this sounds, the truth is life is in blood. Jesus blood is without sin because his Father is God. When Jesus died on the cross, he took all sins upon himself. Then he rose again, but without the sin. This is why we want his life in our life, and saved is what you are after you are born again.
If you are still with me at this point, you are ready for the next one.
Sin. Not a joke if you die with the most. There are two kinds and neither has anything to do with a cardinal.
1) Original sin. This is not one no one ever thought of; it is what you are born with straight out of the womb. Adam and Eve were tricked into going against God and trusting Satan who lied to them. When they trusted Satan instead of God, sin entered them and the world they were supposed to care for. Adam’s blood courses through us all; with it, his sin. This is why we all struggle with being good. We can only last so long before we blow it. (This is the reason Jesus has no earthly father.)
2) Sin. This is an act willfully done or in ignorance that is against God’s desire for us.
Either one is why we need God to forgive us and the reason for his death on the cross. There is no reason to hang on to either kind because Jesus made a way for our salvation (see above).
Repent. This is the act of admitting to God what you did/do wrong and trusting him to change your behavior, then making the effort to change. It is like making a u-turn. (Hint: you should include this when you ask him to enter your life.)
Second Coming. Ready or not. Jesus said that he is coming again, but not like he came before. When he comes the second time, thus the Second Coming, the sky will open up in a global event that won’t be missed. This is a time I hope you have that born again box checked because he is coming for those that are his. Trust me, you do not want to be not his.
For more check out John Stott’s classic Basic Christianity.
Photo by Josh Cantrell Courtesy of freeimages.com
Oct 14, 2015 9:42 AM
Christians are strange. At least I thought so as a teen. Now, after I’ve been one for thirty plus years…yeah, Christians can be strange.
I used to work in a town with a lot of transplanted southerners. They came to work in the car factories. You could always tell they originated from the south even if they didn’t have an accent by the way they stressed the first part of words.
DEE-troit is not an original Michigander pronunciation. We say de-Troi(t) never really sounding the last t, a left-over from the French, perhaps. But then, these women were from TINNessee, a place we call tennaSee.
They told me I needed JEEsus and REEvival. I didn’t argue the Jesus part. I didn’t know what a revival was, however, and I was sure if they had it, I didn’t want it.
I wasn’t being completely prideful. I knew I wanted to be closer to God. It was just that these people could turn their Christianity on and off like a switch. I was in no way a candidate for sainthood, but I knew more of the Bible than they thought I did. I felt uncomfortable under their pointing finger, but not compelled to accept their invitations.
I was struggling with trying to figure out a purpose for life. I never saw a link from their words and actions to the questions I was searching to answer.
Thank God that He will put people, books and verses in your path that will speak to your need.
Years later, I found myself in a church teeming with southern transplants, and I felt completely at home. It is funny what true commitment produces. Jesus is authentic. He had strong words for those that misrepresent His message, but His grace extends to all of us.
So if you’ve ever wondered if Jesus is real, if His claims are relevant for you today, here is my advice: skip the small stuff, the excuses you can make–legitimate or not– and go right to the source. Say, “Jesus, if You are real, show me.”
I am so thankful that I started that conversation, and accepted His invitation.
Photo by stockimages courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Oct 12, 2015 12:33 PM
My daughter wants purple hair.
I cringe at the images swirling behind my raised brow of gaudy strings of livid color. My mother’s mantra of understated elegance has been drilled into my head since birth. Her own look never strayed from natural hair, moisturizer and red lipstick. It must have worked because before she married my father she was never in want of boyfriends.
I strayed from this model of perfection in my teens– strawberry blonde streaks and purple eyeshadow followed by my Marilyn McCoo phase– but returned to it in my late twenties. I discovered Mom was right. Now despite drilling the same mantra into my daughters, my youngest has decided to leap into today’s faddish fashions, bleaching and dying her way to her own model of perfection. She sees her friends and wants to join them; I see split-ends, broken, fried hair.
Am I stopping her? No. But something else stews in my thoughts. I am uncomfortable. I do not live in an urban setting. Weird haircolor is reserved for old women with lavender or bordeaux covered gray. No teen in my church has purple hair.
Why does someone’s choice of haircolor stretch my idea of Christianity?
I am wrestling over the answer. I associate things outside Christianity with purple hair, I guess. I am wondering what else will squeeze through, unwanted, with the purple hair.
Thus, I have realized something about myself that I don’t know what to do with. I am one of those believers Paul talks about in Romans 14 who wouldn’t eat meat offered to idols.
Is my faith weak? I never thought so before. But it wasn’t my kids with psychedelic hair.
In all this intellectual hashing I’ve discovered something else about myself: I have a lot of
hang upsexperience. I know by experience that strawberry streaks and purple eyeshadow was not my best look. I know that my daughter is beautiful as she is, and people will judge her by appearance whatever fashion craze she follows. I know that classic beauty as well as classic Christianity is good taste. But all this I had to learn.
I am uncovering the wisdom of Romans 14:22 which is directed toward Christians with opposing convictions, “So whatever you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God.”
And what is classic Christianity? It outlasts and reaches beyond all societal, cultural and fashion trends. It focuses on the basics. Do you believe that Jesus is God? Have you asked Him into your life? Are you reading the Bible and obeying what it says to do?
If you can sincerely answer yes to those questions, then whatever your ideas about haircolor, “we can accept one another, just as Christ accepted [us], in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7 NIV
Sep 30, 2015 5:06 PM
The setting sun paints the clouds pink, and the white trunks of birches glow against the fading grass of the field. I am driving home, my thoughts racing through memories of many such sunsets and birches. It is an ache that persists, and I know its only cure is the day I am forever home.
The emotion of loss is to be wrestling with grief on some level everyday. The ancient Israelites, huddled in Babylonian cities, spent their lives looking back, mourning the way of life and the temple they lost. But Ezekiel forced their vision forward to the days he called “the latter years”. (Ez:38 KJV) He pressed them to embrace truth in the midst of disaster.
He spoke of strange men and nations yet to be born. He spoke of his people returning to their homeland from every foreign place and living in safety. He spoke of enemies rising against them, Meshech, Tubal, Persia, Libyia, Ethiopia and many more, defeated by a shaking of the earth, flooding rains, hail, fire, sulfur and disease.
I am sure they dreamed wistfully when he told them of the day the Temple would be rebuilt and God’s glory would fill it for eternity.
I am sure many hoped the temple they rebuilt would be Ezekiel’s Temple. But it was not. That one is yet to come. Instead they waited, most still living in a foreign land, still hoping his words were true.
Israel’s struggle continues. Israel has endured and will endure, kept safe by the God who remembers His promises. And as the pines blur past my car windows, I know that I too am kept safe by the same God. Ezekiel’s words also raise my vision, to the times ahead when my hope is made visible. My struggle is not a vain attempt at life but a journey to abundant life.
This is the week of the Jewish festival of Sukkot. I am not Hebrew–you’ve probably guessed that- but this festival is a time of rejoicing. I myself am setting the time aside as a time of praise. I don’t know what the rumblings in the Middle East may bring, or what is in my future as the seasons wind down, but I know this: God is faithful to His word and worthy of praise.
Sep 14, 2015 3:57 PM
If you are engaged in sharing the gospel today, you know that apologetics is the new evangelism. It is not enough to know what you believe. You must know why and be able to articulate it in words meaningful to the educated skeptic next door. Much like the Pharisees, the atheist may be able to get off by saying, “I don’t know”, but a Christian needs a ready answer.
Below are three questions directed to believers. Before you consider them, let’s take a look at the belief that generates these questions.
Moral relativism is alive and well. And why not? It seems so…loving and righteous and well, moral. It is anything but.
The idea that morals are decided upon by the individual or the culture denies an ultimate authority or code of behavior. It claims to be liberating and fair. But excluding an authority beyond man’s, who then becomes the authority?
In theory, no one. No one is able to judge or condemn. Law is meaningless. But this does not stop moral relativists from judging, condemning or insisting their “morality” upon another.
Moral relativism by nature is discriminatory. For example pro-choice supporters hand rights to the mother not the child (or the father). Cultures who adhere to these values still subjugate groups within their society for the benefit or desire of the larger group. To argue the rights of the unborn child (and yes it is a child with valuable body parts it seems) or the equality of all men, it is necessary to point to an authority above all others– a necessity that is rejected.
It is hard for the relativist to shed his Judeo Christian roots, however. Romans 2:14-15 says the knowledge of right and wrong “is something deep within them echoing God’s yes and no, right and wrong.” (MSG) We either act on this knowledge or we don’t. But relativists appeal to this inner sense without understanding that they do. True relativity has no definition for good and evil because then it wouldn’t be, uhm, relative. Lovingly, keep this in mind as you begin a conversation with a moral relativist.
Now that we understand the assumptions behind the first two questions, let’s take a look at them.
Why do Christians insist their religion is the only way to God? (Spoken with attitude.) What they are really asking is how do we get off thinking we have the sole authority/truth?
First, all religions claim to be exclusive. For example, Islam declares Allah is the only God and Mohammed is his prophet. Mormons claim theirs is the only true church. The Watchtower of the Jehovah Witnesses states it is the only biblical truth given to man. Shinto teaches the Mikado is the only Son of Heaven. Buddhism and Hinduism have so many forms, but contrary to those above, claim either you are God or God is undefinable. (Simplified version.)
Jesus is the only one to say He is God, then back it up by rising from the dead, a feat that turned the first century world upside down. Eye witness accounts went uncontested among a population who could easily have revealed it as a lie if it had been one.
Aren’t all religions worshipping the same God anyway? What’s the big deal?
Meaning: “Seriously? There are no absolutes.” Each of the religions mentioned above have vastly different descriptions of God, His attributes, man, heaven, hell and sin. All these cannot be true. Like the old game show To Tell The Truth, more than one is lying. There is no way to reconcile all these gods.
Christianity stands apart in its claim of absolute Truth (John 14:1), its view of man’s sin and redemption. It is the only one to coherently address the questions of who we are, our meaning and purpose and evil in the world. The Bible is unique in its history of man’s need for salvation being fulfilled in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Doesn’t science/evolution eliminate/disprove the need for God? This question assumes many things: that science and God are in opposition, that science is infallible, that science can answer philosophical questions and prove the origin of love, hate etc.
It is interesting to note that where and when Christianity flourished, great advances in science were achieved. Some Eastern religions deny that the world is real. Truth (if it exists) is not knowable. Christianity has provided a foundation for science in that it claims the world is real and truths about it can be discovered. It also provides the basis of logic and order. Science needs the principles Christianity posits.
Evolution, here in the sense as creator, is a theory and is suffering from a lack of tangible evidence.
The real question may be is science and evolution held to as much scrutiny as God or is there blind faith in science? (Be careful how you word that.)
Unlike moral relativity, Truth is not exclusive to a group of people or scientific theory. It is exclusive by definition, however, and will stand the test of time whether we believe it or not.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles FreeDigital Photos.net
Aug 20, 2015 11:24 AM
According to Barna Group’s The State of the Bible 2014, Americans are not ready to give up their Bibles. They just don’t read them much.
Is this rising illiteracy changing America? The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, yes and yes.
Frank Newport’s article, “Americans Continue to Shift Left on Key Moral Issues,” showcases a 2015 Gallup Poll on Values and Beliefs. When compared to a similar Gallup poll in 2001 the results suggest an increasing move away from Biblical morals.
- 68% believe sex between unmarried people is ok (53% in 2001)
- 61% believe having a baby outside of marriage is ok (45% in 2001)
- 71% believe divorce is acceptable (59% in 2001)
- 16% believe polygamy is acceptable (7% in 2001)
More people than ever before are identifying themselves as social liberals. But what does this mean to Americans in their daily lives? To family relationships and childhood?
Pew Research claims 41% of children are born to unmarried couples. Statistics indicate two thirds of these children are born to women under thirty. The same statistics report 49% of single moms never marry and 39.6% are poor and 51.9% are in extreme poverty. It concludes that 17.4 million children are fatherless.
Children in households with unmarried parents are not much better off. Data from the Census Bureau (childtrends.org) states that in 2014 there were 3.1 million such households compared to 1.2 million in 1996. These parents are less educated, have lower incomes and less stable employment compared to married parents.
The same source declares children from single/divorced households exhibit more behavior and emotional problems, lower grades, less self-control and experience “high levels of aggravated parenting.”
The Washington Times reported that crime is related to fatherlessness. Familyfacts.org not only backs up that claim with research but goes further to state that child abuse, adolescent delinquency, drug abuse and incarceration are all related to single parent homes. It adds that counties with large communities of single parents experience higher homicide rates.
I live in Michigan, a state that has three or four cities repeatedly on some most dangerous place to live list. These cities are not meccas for conservative Christians. These are liberal communities with liberal statistics.
You would think that all this liberty would breed happiness. But it brings poverty, crime, emotional distress and misery into the lives of young women, children, schools and the community.
And men are not off the hook either. In a 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America– 70% of these deaths are white males. Most are between the ages of 15 and 34. For black males, the number of homicides is staggering:
- ages 15-19 47%
- ages 20-24 49.9%
- ages 25-34 33.5%
Is social liberalism producing moral decline? To answer, I would ask these questions: Is poverty, child abuse, child abandonment (fatherlessness) and murder moral? Is living life selfishly to the point of not thinking about consequences to other people moral?
It is generally believed that moral decline and the economic, health and family issues it produces has nothing to do with Biblical illiteracy. But statistics are pointing out that a lack of Biblical values do not culminate in successful lives. Concerned educators are scrambling to put together character lessons that equate to values education. For this to work, values cannot be defined by the individual. There has to be some authority where everyone is held to the same standard, not a shifting list of contrasting ideas.
And here is the divide. Skeptics would not promote the Bible as an authority. And here is where they are wrong. The Bible is not the record of a new religion started by a gifted teacher/prophet named Jesus. It is the words of the Creator to His people for living successful, abundant lives. It describes the starting point of all humanity, and it is an authority above all others.
How many people do not know that Jesus is present in Genesis– before man was created? That God hates divorce? What fornication is and what God says about it? That God said, “My people die for lack of knowledge?”
Too many it seems, and they pay a high price for it– rather Americans are paying a high price– in more taxes for social programs, unemployment and higher crime to name a few. Liberalism has its own trickle-down effect. In fact, poverty is rising right along with liberalism.
Barna Group’s State of the Bible 2014 also found that young people want to know the connection between the Bible and everyday matters like parenting, jobs and money. But knowing the connection and ignoring it or rejecting it bears a consequence. America is showing signs of the consequenses.
Proverbs 4:20-23 says, “My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen to my words. Never let them get away from you. Remember them and keep them in your heart. They will give life and health to anyone who understands them. Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” (GNB)
Let us turn those thoughts to our Creator, God, dust off those Bibles and crack them open.
Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net: USA Written in Kid Letters by Stuart Miles
Aug 7, 2015 6:07 PM
It has been said by numerous studies that today’s young adults are more educated and less happy than previous generations.
Their unhappiness is understandable considering that their college degrees do not guarantee them a job. US News reported November 13, 2014, that the average college debt neared $30,000, and for some colleges it was closer to $50,000. I’d be unhappy too if I had to try to pay that off while working at Burger King.
But finances are the tip of the iceberg. Advancing self trumps a community spirit. We are evermore living in an individualistic culture whose values are less likely to be family-oriented or affiliated with party politics and organized religion. We are living the euphoria of a society whose truth is whatever it wants it to be. An anything-goes-attitude is the flip-side of indifference. And that indifference added to a frustrated compulsion to be successful must come at a price because anxiety and depression are highest in this generation.
Sad. Sad because God has offered us a life of abundance, abundant peace and provision– not necessarily riches. The quality of our lives and relationships is the most important thing we can build. How we build determines our satisfaction. It is important to think through how we are going about it.
What do I value? Is what I am doing now, and who I am with reflect those values? What is real in my life?
How to live a well thought life begins with the idea that truth exists. It is comforting to know that some things never change. You can depend on it, trust in it, no matter what philosophy tries to replace it. It exists to sustain and nurture you. God is truth. His word is truth. His ways are truth.
You may be wary of the person sitting near you at the café, your date, the pastor behind the microphone, the politician spewing promises and the cable repairman, but– you can trust Jesus’ words to you. He asks us to taste and see that He is good and promises to bless us when we run to Him. (Psalm 34:38) He cares about us.
Another aspect of a well thought life is considering your purpose. Why are you alive? You are more than cells and plasma. You have worth to God, and He created you for a reason with skills and insights that go way beyond a paycheck. Scratch the words more and most from your vocabulary. Instead of comparing trophies and net worth, analyze value. View failure as a second chance, or third, or fourth. Success in God's definition is a process.
Think quality and surround yourself with it. Quality in relationships, work, activity and entertainment. Achievement is only as good as its meaning. And when you know what it means, you can set out on your journey.
Aug 4, 2015 6:58 AM
Many educated people teach that Christianity began during the Roman Empire. I must point out that they are knowledgeable about history, but not about the Bible.
These teachers rightly claim that Christianity begins with Jesus. But who is Jesus really and when did He arrive on the scene?
God is the author of the Bible. He gave the words to men to write down. Among the books of the Bible, a clear picture of Jesus emerges. He is God.
The apostle John gives a description of Jesus in the introduction of his letter. He states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 NKJ) He continues in the fourteenth verse, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…”
Jesus himself said that he was God. He declared, “I can guarantee this truth: before Abraham was ever born, I am.” (John 8:58) I AM is the name God gave himself in Exodus 3:14.
When was Jesus created?
About Jesus Paul writes, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15) Paul goes on to answer our next question and, just to make it plain, continues with “He created all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. … He existed before everything and holds everything together.” (Colossians 1:16-17)
God, speaking in Genesis 1:26, uses the word “us”. He is referring to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, not a committee of extraterrestrials.
The idea of Jesus as a Savior is introduced in Genesis 3:15 way before the Roman Empire and his arrival on earth. In the time between these events, God is teaching about the blood, the idea of a sacrificial Lamb, mercy and forgiveness. But all points to the arrival of Jesus and His work on the cross.
So to answer the question, Is Christianity a new religion?, the correct answer is no. Christianity, the belief in a Christ, a Savior, begins in Genesis, which is the beginning, and Jesus, the Creator, God, predates Genesis.