Archive for the ‘ Bible ’ Category

Merciful Death

Cross Walk 2008

Me doing the Cross Walk in 2008

If we honestly looked around our world, we could see plenty of good reasons why people would want to take their lives. Sad? Definitely.

Sorry to be gloomy and maybe even a bit sick, but what if they are on to something?

Sweet Death

I read an article recently in Christian Research Journal (Vol. 34, No. 2, 2011) titled “A Christian View of Human Nature“. The author, John S. Hammet, had this to say about death:

Moreover, may not the end of life in this world be a severe mercy from God? True, death entered the world as the punishment for sin, but a punishment that opened the door to mercy. For once humans had fallen and become like God in knowing, not just good, but now evil, God intervened: “He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and live forever” (Gen. 3:22). It was the mercy of God that established the limitation of life as a fallen human; as redeemed persons, we are welcomed to the tree of life (Rev. 22:3).

Not only could God have allowed death as a mercy to get away from the suffering we brought upon ourselves (and for the record, I am not making any arguments today about the afterlife for all people; this is just about this life), but He used death to defeat death!

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.

But:

Since the children have flesh and blood, [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

From the beginning, God showed us mercy through death. Even if you do not hold to Hammet’s take, here are some examples:

What do you think? Is death God once again showing His grace in the midst of our punishment?

The Gospel of Nothing

Nothing to offerWhat are we able to give God?

What is it that we can give God to get closer to God?

Creator of Everything

God is the Creator of everything. All things we are able to measure. Almost all things we are not able to measure.

God created light. God created atoms and molecules. God created mass. God created single-celled organisms. God created plants. God created animals. God created us. God created emotions and infact has emotions. God created and is goodness. God created and is truth. God created and is Life.

God did not create lies. God did not create hurts. God did not create pain. God did not create hate. God did not create evil. God did not create sin.

What we give God

This last line is what we can give God … at least at first.

This is the gospel: We have nothing to give God but our filth, our hurts, our lies, our hate, our evil, our sin.

In other words, nothing.

But we also give God our choice to follow.

In other words, we choose to love God.

God takes all this and gives us in exchange grace, forgiveness, grace, the Holy Spirit, grace, a new car new life, grace, and hope for a future in Eternity.

God also does not want us to continue living as we have. That is why there is new life with the Holy Spirit. This is also why there is so much grace: we will continue to mess up.

But God wants more.Empty to receive

After clearing us out of all of our nothing, God knows we need something.

If we present ourselves as ready and willing for whatever, God fills us with Himself – the Holy Spirit – to go out and perform good works for the benefit of others to bring glory to God.

After giving God our nothing, God gives us the ability to give our very lives, to give the Love given to us, to give forgiveness to ourselves and to others, to give our all.

Rising Second Title

Earlier we heard from Mark about faith in Christ and the importance of the Resurrection. I have some other thoughts.

Today is Groundhog Day! This is the day a bunch of American’s put their faith in a small mammal who rises out of the ground to tell us whether we have to wait six more weeks for spring or should expect spring to come on March 20. So many people put their faith in this tiny creature to let them know if we have to wait 42 days to see the snowy season end or … 46 days.

Do those four days really matter? And, really, the hope is that it is an early spring will come if the little guy does not see his shadow. A few funny tidbits about Phil and his history:

  1. His predictions are frequently “Long winter”, sometimes for multiple years in a row, with “Early spring” never being repeated a year after it was last reported. That is rather pessimistic!
  2. Out of 115 predictions, 15 (13%) have been early spring.
  3. Out of 115 predictions, 45 (roughly 39%) have been correct.

To be fair, the Bible tends to be rather pessimistic, as well:

  1. All (as in all people. Every single person, minus One … but He was also fully God) have sinned.
  2. Israel could not listen, and they had to be disciplined.
  3. Our world will get worse before it gets better.

 This can cause a lot of us to doubt our world, the Word, and even weather predictions! (That order seems off)

Consider this:

  1. How many Bible prophecies have been proven false? (Honestly. Not “there is no evidence” quotes from people who have barely even touched a Bible)   0 (Zero).
  2. How many religions have founders who died, rose to life again, and have not died since?   1 (One).
  3. How many religions have changed how time itself is measured?   1 (One).

It seems that the Bible is rather reliable, and Christianity seems to be the best … nay, the ONLY real option. It really is centered around the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. There are some great places discussing this very thing (Most recently at Matt Appling’s blog). It is through the cross we are truly introduced to God’s grace, another central point. It is through the cross we were given forgiveness. It was the Resurrection that solidified the deal forever, justifying us by signing the check that was written in His blood to pay for our sins.

It is not faith in a furry animal that gives us peace. It is not weather forecasts or cute productions that allay our fears of death and judgment. It is all through the death and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

What doubts do you still have? What fears keep you from moving forward? Where are you placing your faith, your trust? Who do you reveal your worries and concerns to? What hope do you hold on to?

Confronting doubt with Truth

Doubt can push us towards God or away from God.

One of the only ways to remove doubt is to introduce truth. This is not just looking at some facts. Anyone can look at facts (I think a great example is the difference between believing in six days of creation or millions/billions of years of evolutionary process … while looking at rocks and fossils). It is seeking truth.

I think this kid has some things figured out:

But there is still a question of whether or not it is okay to doubt. It sure seems the great people of the Christian faith had it all figured out. But as I mentioned, doubt can push us towards God or away from God.

Judas Iscariot believed Jesus as the Messiah, but his doubts after helping get Jesus arrested and crucified sent him to hang himself.

Heck, the Sanhedrin, for the most part, doubted Jesus was the Messiah, and this doubt brought about the very act that could redeem them!

We need to ask, does our doubt cause us to curse God or follow Him? There were other doubters:

Lee Strobel was an adamant atheist doubting God even existed until he met a woman while doing a story for the Chicago Tribune (he wrote about it in Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary. I had to read it my first semester at college). Her faith caused him to doubt his doubt in God and is today one of the most famous Christian apologists.

Josh McDowell thought Christianity was bunk until he looked at the evidence. He is also one of the most famous apologists.

Ravi Zacharias grew up in an atheist, and he was so sure that he was a failure and that his life would be better not being tried to commit suicide by mixing several household chemicals together and drinking them. Someone brought him a Bible while he was in the hospital. Today, he is one of the foremost Christian apologists.

Albert Henry Ross doubted the resurrection, considering it a myth without merit. He later wrote a book declaring the truth of the Resurrection called Who Moved the Stone?

Mother Teresa, while raised in the Catholic faith, had many doubts about the existence of God when seeing all of the misery around her in India. Yet she persevered; and we all know of her great contributions to the poor, sick, homeless, and godless.

Martin Luther doubted paying money for indulgences could absolve sins. He inadvertently began the Protestant Reformation (so, for many people, he helped make their denomination even possible).

Thomas doubted, and he was an Apostle of Jesus! It is believed he was the first missionary to India (where he … uh … was killed).

The most famous Apostle of all, Paul, doubted! As Saul, he persecuted the early Church to the point of approving of killing believers! As we now know, the risen Jesus personally called him to service, and he went on to write most of our New Testament.

The list is really quite long. Suffice it to say, if you have doubts about God you are not alone.

I doubt that is true. I can’t believe it. I SHANT believe it!

Doubt has a bad rap.

I also think it rightly has a bad rap, but I think that sometimes gets in the way of people acknowledging or even confronting their doubt.

I just started the class “Systematic Theology” this week, and doubt is one of the first issues we are tackling (hence the idea to write about it!).

When is doubt a good thing?

How about when God is crying out for us, leading us to Him? Doubt can be a very good thing. We start to doubt the wisdom of the world. We start to doubt everything we have been raised to believe about what the world is telling us. If our doubt is truly from God then we will find ourselves doubting the world more and more and God les and less. This doubt will lead us to the saving knowledge of Christ as Lord and Savior.

Doubt can also be good as a believer. Poor Thomas, that Apostle of Jesus, gets a bad rap that comes with a nickname: Doubting Thomas. If someone does not believe something, they might be called a “Doubting Thomas” in more of a derogatory way. But sometimes it is okay.

If we sit in a church pew (or chairs, as they are becoming more popular all the time) and blindly listen to what the preacher is saying, are we really growing? Especially if the message being preached is weak, heretical, or even blasphemous, doubt can play a big role. If your church preaches “God hates certain people, so we are going to go to funerals and protest and yell at people that God wants them to go to hell”, then doubt might push you to research and find the truth. It could be a message that God only wants you happy and rich and have your best life now, but doubt gets you to find the Bible says something a little different.

Is this to say that certain people will not be sent to Hell or that we can have happiness and financial prosperity here on Earth? No. In fact, the Bible tells us that there are righteous people and evil people who both do well.

But people still doubt. Sometimes when a person says “I don’t believe it”, what they are really saying is “I can’t believe it”. Or if they say “I can’t believe” they may really be saying “I won’t believe it!” Zechariah had trouble believing angel and was punished; Mary had trouble believing the same angel and was considered righteous. Why? Zechariah allowed his view of the material to interfere with his view of the power of God, but Mary sought understanding. Zechariah said “I can’t or won’t believe this, because it is so strange”, but Mary said “I am unable to understand this. Help me!”

This is the same issue many people face with the Bible. Everyone asks “Why did God have the Israelites destroy all the people in the Promised Land?” One person may say “I refuse to believe a loving God would do that!” Here is something to mull over:

If you had learned that a violent pedophile had moved into your area, would you not want them gone while wondering “How could they let someone like that live near me?” Or perhaps this pedophile moved right next to your child’s school. You would do everything within your power to make sure that your child was safe.

Now look at Israel. God knew what would happen. Here are these various nations and tribes who undoubtedly would have heard about the army of Egypt being destroyed by the Hebrew God, but they all said “We won’t believe in that God!” God knew these people would turn the hearts of the Israelites away from Him.  He knew that if these people were allowed to remain in the area, they would do very naughty things to His people and lead them astray.

We should be aware of doubt and willing to allow God to use it to move us closer to Him. Proverbs chapter one tells us who refuses to listen. They doubt and suffer. Instead, the beginning of wisdom comes from seeking God (see verse seven). It is okay to doubt as long as it leads to God. If it begins to turn us away from God, we begin walking the path of fools.

What say you? Are there doubts you struggle with? Do those doubts hurt your relationship with God or help? Do they confuse you about which way they are pulling? Further on, do you have people around you to help you through your doubts? A pastor is good, but a friend is better (especially if that pastor is a friend!).

Grace and Peace!