My Life with Jesus (My first ever Guest Blog!)

Look at how amazing I am! New to blogging, yet I already have a guest blogger! Meet Mark. He is pretty amazing, too, but I am teaching him a few amazing things. Enjoy!

Dr. Luke  Timothy Johnson in his book  The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels asks a very pointed question.   Is Jesus dead or alive?  The question seems awfully irrelevant  doesn’t it?  In our post-modern world existence or non-existence of something or someone  really does not matter  it only matters on our perception of things.  I doubt we treat our mortgage, car payment, and credit card bills  the same way.  Scholars for years have been doing their best to discover who Jesus really was.  Books have chronicled Jesus as Mediterranean peasant, iconic sage, and even a most holy prophet.

His words have been analyzed over and his steps have been traced.  The study of Jesus has made many scholars  famous, i.e.  John Dominic Crossan.  Scholars treat Jesus solely as a figure of the past to be studied and analyzed.  I am concerned that we as Bible believing evangelicals fall into the same dangers.  The pulpit in America is devoid of sermons detailing the most pivotal event in human history.  The event I am speaking of is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Easter seems to be the only time that this event is preached.  Liberal mainline denominations have treated the resurrection story in a very postmodern way.  “The reality of the physical resurrection of Jesus is not important, it only matters how it makes you feel.”  Resurrection has been reduced to a  feel-good, happy, ethereal feeling.  I want to state unequivocally that the actual resurrection of Jesus matters.  I want to share about my life with Jesus.

Jesus Christ is not simply a figure in the past to be studied and analyzed.  I may be able to learn about Jesus by studying the gospels and tracing His steps and studying all His sayings.  Learning about Jesus is not the same as learning from Jesus.  I live my life as a disciple of the living Jesus.  My day consists of hearing from Him as the living incarnate Word.  I also learn from Him as I hear Him speak through the Holy Spirit, and as He guides me on a daily basis.  “Jesus wanted: Dead or alive.  I choose Jesus alive as One who is real and continually leading me and guiding me to the truths of His Word.  You may only choose to study about Jesus, but I choose to learn from Him.  We need to change our vocabulary from “Jesus was” to “Jesus is.”

History has enough great names in the past to learn about.  Einstein taught us about relativity.  Galileo taught us about astronomy.  Newton taught us about Gravity.  The men I mentioned are all dead and gone and their legacy lives on, and we are grateful for their contribution.  Jesus stands out from all others, because He not only walked this earth and endured every pain and sorrow on the cross for us, but He conquered the grave and beat death, thus securing our salvation by rising from the dead! (I Corinthians 15)

Today, be ever mindful that Jesus wants to teach you something today.  My life with Jesus is a life full of hope, because I know that Jesus is alive.

SOLIA DE GLORIA!

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!

Hello world!

I have finally started my own blog! Hopefully it is God writing through me and not just me as I hope to tackle a wide range of things biblically, theologically (which can be different!), and within life in general.

Like others (such as John Correia! who encouraged me and explained my feelings rather well in his first blog post), I resisted starting since there are so many people with blogs today (WordPress told me there are about 500,000 users here alone!), and it seems like anything I would have to say would have already been said and probably more eloquently (or hilariously, like the Church of No People, or even from people who may have more formal training like John and the others at the Free Grace Alliance … which would be nice if they would let me be a part … ::wink wink nudge nudge cough cough:: … yeah, I have a cold at the moment). These and many others really force me to think about a lot of things, and I hope I do the same to others.

My goal is to offer a weekly topic in which I throw around a bunch of ideas that get us all thinking. I can guarantee that I will fall on certain sides of topics in which others will disagree with me, and I promise that I will occasionally say something that will be taken completely the wrong way by many if not all people until I can get myself to properly explain it, and I declare that we all have an attitude of grace and respect towards all beliefs within our realm (and really others, as well, since people following other religions take their beliefs at least as seriously as I/we do ours!). We may not always agree (look at Paul and Barnabas and Paul and Peter), but we can do so civilly!

So do not be afraid to rebuke or agree or nudge towards clearer/fuller truth, but also please be willing to allow God to speak to you (even if I do let myself get in the way! Remember, every message is an opportunity to hear from God, even if we completely disagree with the message!). Here is hoping I stick to a schedule and proclaim His Word well! Here is to rich dialogue and good relationships remaining intact or even being formed!

God bless and thanks for joining me for the ride,

Daniel

I Love/Hate Religion.

That’s right. I love religion, and I hate religion.

One of the first sayings (not the first, mind you) I learned as a young believer in Christ was “I hate religion” because “It’s a relationship!” Everyone knows that religion is a trap that constrains all who practice from truly knowing God! Everyone knows that religion causes wars and fights and church splits and all sorts of mayhem!

We hear on our TV’s and read in our newspapers and magazines that religion is what has caused all of the travesties in our world. We are raised in churches being told that religion separates us from our relationship with God. (For the record, I know this is not universally true … just go with me on this!) James even tells us that religion is worthless! (Yep, I heard this teaching in a church, and that more than once and more than one church!)

So, then, what about what James said next?

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27, NIV)

Wait. Religion can be good? Okay, but only one biblical reference does not really mean anything does it?

How about Paul?

“But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God” (1 Timothy 5:4, NIV).

Huh. That sounded pretty familiar.

Our friends at Merriam-Webster have a few words to throw in, too:

 “(1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance”

or:

“a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.”

Yeah, I left out some other definitions, but this is my blog and I am trying to make a point!

I really like that second definition mixed with the first part of the first definition. Allow me to reword it:

“Religion is serving and worshiping God through a set or system of attitudes, beliefs, and practices.”

Makes religion sound a whole lot better, doesn’t it?

We can argue that our attitudes and beliefs and practices can interfere with our relationship with God (“what I hate I do“), and in the greater context of the whole Bible those references above and multitude others imply that to be true. We can argue that it is too easy for people to focus on following the rules or traditions or practices instead of for Whom we are doing them all.

I will use an analogy:

We sit down to play chess. For it to be enjoyable, we follow certain rules. Our pieces can only move in certain ways. We have to take turns moving our pieces. There is either a stalemate or one winner and one loser. If we change the rules or disregard them completely, then it is really a game of “I Win” and the winner is whoever can fight or argue better!

Or how about driving. We can drive however we want when we are behind the wheel; but if we want to avoid injury, loss of property/time/money, or even loss of life, then we have to follow certain safe driving rules and laws.

I hate religion because so many people get caught up in religion instead of following God.

I love religion because it helps me grow in my relationship with my Lord and Savior. If there were not certain guidelines for me to follow, I could still be heading straight for Hell thinking I am doing alright. If I have guidelines and rules to help me, we can help each other stay on the path to righteousness and grow closer to Our Lord and Savior.

What do you think? Have I gone of the deep end? Have I nailed it? Have I had  too much time on my hands and picked this to pieces?

Grace and Peace!