Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Being Made Perfect Through Suffering (sermon that was preached)

This is a sermon I preached a bit ago.  I wanted to share it please ignore the improper grammar I did not correct it.  I believe the message speaks to trouble we as a world, but even more pointed as THE CHURCH, are going through today.

“Today I want to speak about suffering I want to speak about grace and our need for both.  The question is how do we act in suffering?  Do we accept grace?  Are we willing to follow Christ no matter what?  If the unreasonable is asked of us are we willing to do this?

Suffering is something everyone goes through.  Some go through more than others but it seems that when we are going through suffering no one else can ever understand.  Lets be honest there is nothing new under the sun.  Sorry teenagers we are not able to understand your angst. We were never teens, we never went through hormonal changes and we were never tempted with things that are sinful.  We never had parents who could not understand. And worst of all Our parents had the gall to tell us that we would have to suffer from our own kids in the same way we made them suffer.  Now that is scary.  Teens think about that before you put your parents through anymore suffering.  I learned that lesson the hard way.

Often times we get so lost in our suffering that we are not able to see others and the suffering they are going through.   We often lose perspective.  We get lost in ourselves to the degree we actually get mad at God or even question God’s existence because we do not believe that the suffering is fair or that if God was good we would not go through this.

Lets be honest sometimes the suffering is not fair.  Bad things happen to us to no fault of our own.  It is true sometimes we do not deserve our suffering.  I know an eight year old who suffered through years of molestation by her father she did not deserve that.  BUT sometimes our suffering is fair.  Sometimes we do deserve our suffering.  Have you ever known that person who makes very unwise choices and gets themselves in all kinds of trouble?  I am sure we all have.  Once they get into trouble they go looking for someone to help them.  Someone usually steps up and helps.  Then they are okay for a bit and get right back into trouble again because they just keep making the same unwise choices.  They are suffering a lot due to their own choices.  On top of that those who are helping them are suffering a lot because of the choices they are making.

If you claim to believe that God is who He said He is then does it matter?  I say this because if He is who He says He is then He knows and has allowed the suffering to take place.  He has a purpose for that suffering.  He is trying to accomplish something and this is the only way it can be accomplished.  He needs something from you or out of you or in you and this is the only way to have it done.

Are you willing to accept unfair suffering?  Are you willing to accept a suffering that is on you because of someone else?  Are you?  Are you willing to accept suffering that you have caused yourself?  Are you willing to accept the suffering you deserve? Are you?  

Often people complain that they are suffering but they caused it themselves and they say it is not fair.  Christ suffered.  He did not deserve it.  He did not earn it.  He did  nothing in any way that would justify His suffering.

Are we not supposed to follow the example of Christ?  Are we not to desire to be like Christ?  Are we not to follow the example that Christ shared with us?  

I Peter 2:21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps

Christ who was without sin still had to suffer to be made perfect.  So why do we think we do not need to be made perfect?

Hebrews 2:10 For it is fitting for Him, for whom all things, and through whom are all things, in

bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.

I want to bring this to our minds so we can think through this.  If Jesus , who did not sin, had to suffer to be perfected how much more suffering do we need to go through to be like Christ.  Even though He was without sin He still had to be perfected for the purpose of satisfying the offering.  So think of it this way not all imperfection is sin.  I know we often think that all the imperfections in us are sin but that is not true.  Christ’s example is proof of that.  

To understand the concept of Jesus needing to be made perfect and how not all imperfection has to do with sin lets take a look at the military.  When someone joins the military they are sent to boot camp.  The purpose of boot camp is to re-educate someone on how to think how to obey.  If they goof up is that a sin. NO.  If they do not know how they are supposed to act is that a sin. NO.  They are trained this is the purpose of boot camp.  In this way Jesus had to go through training to be prepared for the cross.  Remember He was human he had to learn proper grammar, math, reading and so on.  He was not born with this information.  Was He sinning when he misspelled a word? Or got a math problem wrong?  NO of course not.  In the same way He was not sinning just because He was born not able to die on the cross it was a process.  This process He went through was tough.  It brought a lot of suffering to Him and He learned endurance.  He learned how to endure suffering by keeping in good relation with the Father.  He learned that the more suffering He had the closer to the Father He had to be.  Was it sin that He did not know this?  NO.  How would a 8 year old know this?  It took Him 33 years to be ready to die on the cross.  That was 33 years of preparation for His main purpose death on the Cross.   He suffered through out.  He was our example.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer while delivering a sermon in 1934 entitled “Our God is a suffering God” says this:

“I realize that the concept of our God being a suffering God is to many abhorrent but to me it is beautiful.  It is through suffering that we are able to be made ready for God for heaven for life and for Kingdom building.  How else do we expect to be free from sin free from bondage free from this world and wholly Christ, wholly heaven bound, wholly whole.  Suffering is the vehicle our God has chosen and He is participated in this in that He sent His only begotten Son to  suffer and die for us because of us because of our sin.  Without the suffering there would be no forgiveness no grace no mercy no joy.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a man who understood suffering.  He understood what it meant to suffer unjustly.  When he stood up to the Nazis and publicly stated they were evil.  He suffered for that.  He was given the opportunity to leave Germany and escape persecution but chose to stay.  He chose the path of greatest suffering for the purpose of Christ.  In the end he died for his stances but also in the end he gave one of the strongest public examples in the 20th century of suffering for the cross.

There are two types of suffering general suffering and Christian suffering.  General suffering covers all the misery, sickness, pain and death which is part of the human condition.  To some degree we all go through this as did Jesus.   I am sure Jesus had a cold or suffered from allergies or some sort of bodily suffering. General suffering we all partake in is something addressed in:

Galatians 6:2  Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

General suffering gives Christians a great opportunity to help others…. to show the love of Christ without reservation.

It is Christian suffering we must participate in if we are going to follow Christ.  I understand that to some, what I just said is diametrically opposed to what they believe.  They believe that Christians should not suffer and that if we are truly following God all suffering would go away and the only reason we suffer is because of our own sin.  I hope the fact that Jesus had to suffer did not pass you by.  If Jesus had to suffer what sin caused His suffering.  Let me restate this one more time.  We must participate in Christian suffering if we are going to truly follow Christ.  Remember we just read Hebrews and 1 Peter where it clearly states that to follow Christ we will suffer.

Now I know there are folks who hate what I just said but I also know there are folks who know and appreciate what I just said.  Folks who have suffered both of their own accord and from no fault of their own.  They understand suffering.

What is Christian suffering.  This is simple.  Christian suffering is our participation of God’s suffering at the hands of an ungodly world.  The degree we suffer because we identify with God is the degree we participate with Christ in the suffering He had to endure.

Often we ask why is there so much suffering in this world? Fair question.  Oft though we get the pat answer that it is because of sin.  This may be true but it is easy and does not struggle with the very real problem with pain.  This does not struggle with the purpose of suffering.  The answer of “it is because of sin” does not have any struggle in it at all.

We must struggle we must suffer and we must have an answer when someone ask the legitimate question of why is there so much suffering in the world.  I realize that most people will not be satisfied with the answer.  They may not understand your answer.  BUT if your answer comes from the point of being as a result of suffering then it will RING true and they will know that.  Their spirit will testify as to the validity of what you are saying and then a real conversation will be made possible.   Even though often that question is a smoke screen to the real question they have.  The real problem they struggle with and the real reason they do not want to serve God or admit God.  The real question is simple.  Why has there been so much suffering in my life?  They personalize it.   Once someone gets to the point of personalizing their problems then you have made it.  You  now have the opportunity to use that suffering that you have been through to serve someone else.  To help someone else.  To fulfill your Kingdom responsibilities.

People do not want to get to personal.  If they do they will have to address things that they have buried deep.  They will have to face sins they have done and sins that others have done to them.  They will have to come out of the darkness into the full light of day.  Where nothing can hide.  

There are things in life we want to hide from.  We place it up in the proverbial attic way in the back in a box but it is really never gone.  We always know it is there we always are aware that it has some sort of power over us.   That deep in the recesses of who we are there is some evil that has root and is trying to take over.

What do we do?  We hide.  We deny.  We run.  We pretend.  We ??

We need grace.  What is the purpose of grace? unmerited favor to put it simply.    Grace is not easy it is not  a quick prayer one says that will inturn free them from all things that are bothering them.  With grace comes suffering. With grace comes hardship.  This is why so many run from grace.  They run they hide they try their darndest to keep the status quo.   sooner or later it catches up. Grace brings to the forefront all the darkness (thankfully not all at once) and releases you from it.  This is why it is unmerited favor.  You have not earned this but God gives it to you anyways.  The problem comes when you run from it.  When the suffering comes you turn and hide.  You deny.  You pretend.  You do what you have to do so that you can protect yourself how you think you need to be protected. Eventually though it catches up.

Has it ever caught up to you?  Have you been in the deepest darkest night and there it is?  I am sure you understand what I am saying.  That thing that has power over you.  Could it be a lie you spoke?  How about a lie you live?  How about something sexual you have done or something sexual someone else has done to you?  Could it be pride?   Sin brings suffering true even if it is someones elses sin.  You can suffer for someone else’s sin.  

We come back to grace.  Grace is costly and hard.  Easy grace is cheap and has no value.

Dietrich Bonhoefffer states in his book The Cost of Discipleship:

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

From <http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/29333.Dietrich_Bonhoeffer>

When we understand that last sentence “Costly grace is the Incarnation of God” then WOW our lives are about to change.  We are not able to learn that and stay the same.  We are not able to understand that statement and stay the same we must make a decision and that will either draw us nearer God or we will have to turn our back on Him.  There is no in between with God.

When we understand that God considers grace to be costly so much so that He gave us His only begotten Son to die upon a cross.  The death of a criminal.  The death that you and I deserve not the death He deserved.  He did not deserve any death.  Death came as a result of sin the Garden.  The reason Jesus could not be held the in the grave is because He had no sin to hold Him in the grave.   Christ suffered for us so that we can have grace to be forgiven to be freed to be whole.

Grace is not cheap because God is not cheap.  The work that Jesus did is not cheap.  The cross is not cheap.  The  nails in His hands are not cheap.  The nails in His feet are not cheap.  The thorns in His brow are not cheap.  The stripes on His back are not cheap.  The blood He shed is not cheap.  The hatred that was heaped upon Him is not cheap.  The anger that was heaped upon Him is not cheap.   No friends grace is not cheap and it is not easy.  It is hard.  Hard as nails.  Hard as thorns.   Hard as whips.  Hard as flesh being torn from His back.  Grace is hard it brings suffering.  We must participate in His sufferings to find perfection.  To be made perfect we must live in grace.  The beauty is when we find grace…… we find Jesus is there with us.  He shows us the way the path the center. We were lost and He opens the way.  We were blind and He gives us site.   Suddenly the storm the hardness the suffering is not so bad.  His burden is light His yoke is easy.

Okay friends suffering is a must otherwise we would not grow.   We would not change.   We would not be able to be more like Christ.  In the end our Goal is to be more like Christ.  

Lets switch modes for a moment.  When someone has surgery there is pain and suffering involved.  We find this normally acceptable, because the point of the surgery is to fix us.  We are to be made well through this surgery even though it is painful and will often cause a lot of suffering afterwards.

My point here is that suffering is not always bad.  God uses suffering to refine us and do surgery to our lives both physically and spiritually.  God sees us for who we are and He understands the mess we really are.  In fact He understands our mess more than we do.

C.S. Lewis put it true when he said , in his book The problem with Pain, this:

“I have been trying to make the reader believe that we actually are, at present, creatures whose character must be, in some respects, a horror to God, as it is, when we really see it, a horror to ourselves. This I believe to be a fact: and I notice that the holier a man is, the more fully he is aware of that fact.”

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

From <https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2976220-the-problem-of-pain>

Yes our character is a horror to God.  Sin is a horror to God. Our character is racked in sin and needs to be cleansed thoroughly.  Needs to be completely transformed.  We need to be a new creation. The closer one gets to God the more real this is.  The more we understand the necessity to die.  That there is nothing of myself that is good.   Ouch that is hard. Nothing at all.  Nothing.

Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells with in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.

Romans 3:10 As it is written “There is none righteous, not even one;

Isaiah 64: 4-9  ….. for all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away……..

Is there any doubt.  We can’t be good enough.  We can’t please God by being good or by doing good or by any means that is within us.

The degree we suffer is directly proportional to the degree we fight God in this process.  There will always be suffering in our lives there will always be pain in our lives.  The more we fight God as He uses this pain and suffering to change us the more pain and suffering we feel.

I say to you today.  One simple thing.  Let go of it.  Let go of having to be right.  Let go of the pain someone else put on you.  Let go of your hidden sin.  Your shame.  Your lies.  So what if others know.  So what if you are embarrassed.  So what.  Truly they have their own shame and guilt to deal with.  They have their own embarrassments to deal with.  You have to stand before God and be judged.  You have to answer for yourself they are not going to pay your penalty for you.  They are not going to hell for you.  Be Honest, Be faithful, Be Honorable.  Let go of it.  Let it all out.  Do not hold back be FREE,

I say to you today what Joshua said to the children of Israel thousands of years ago.

Joshua 24:15 “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

God gives this to you today.  Choose make that choice.  No longer sit on the fence but choose you today whom you shall serve.  Do not allow suffering to sway you but grab on with both hands and be excited about what God is doing.

there is an Old Negro spiritual and it makes a simple and pure statement :

Free at Last

Free at Last

Thank my God I am Free at last.

 

Who wants this freedom?”

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The Hate of the Perfect

Okay here is something I was thinking on this morning.  Everybody knows no one is perfect.  Some have better lives than others and there has only been one exception.  Jesus.  He was perfect.  People hated Him.  In fact in John 15:18 it says that they hated Jesus.  When you think on this Jesus was perfect and in being so it only accentuated the imperfection in everyone else.

People do not like to be reminded how imperfect they are especially if the one reminding them is not actually reminding them but showing them by living their life perfectly.  Jesus did not go around telling people they were imperfect. (He did say things like that it was not His main stay)  He went around teaching about God the Father.

Here is my thought on this.  The closer we get to Jesus the closer we get to perfection.  People hated Jesus and they will hate us.  Again if our lives show Jesus then there is little that need be said about the sin in another’s life our living will share about what real life is and that will bread hatred in some and longing in others.  It is our job to harvest those who long and continue to live life in Jesus for everyone else.  The closer we get to that perfection the more we will be at enmity with the world.

Just a quick thought.

John 15:18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.

The Three most Holy Days for Christians (part 3 of 3)

Of course this day is Resurrection day or as we call it Easter.  The reason this day is on equal standing is simple without the resurrection the rest would have been a big waste of time.  You can say this for each of the three most Holy Days.  You are not able to have one with out the other.

The reason we want to celebrate this is to remember, learn and understand the resurrection and what it means.  The first thing it means is He is alive.  It also means He has conquered death so we can believe His promise to live forever in heaven with Him and His Father.  He showed Himself to hundreds of people multiple times.  Can we believe the testimony?  I do when tied in with Biblical prophecy and the rest of the Bible then their testimony lines up and makes sense.  In the end though it is a matter of faith.  The only time there will be proof is when Jesus comes back again or when one dies and stands at judgement.

There are not many who dispute His death only this who dispute whether He ever lived or not. I will not make that argument here though in a future post I will.   The Bible states much about His death and resurrection and I already went over that in part two of this series please refer to that for more information.

His resurrection is now the focus.  In Mark 16:5-7 you will find a simple story of He is no longer in the grave.  The proof is He is no longer there.  He is going to meet everyone in Galilee.  They were told to wait there.  They waited.

Why is the resurrection important?  The resurrection substantiates all that went before.  All the claims that were made by Jesus, being the Son of God,  being sent from the Father and all the miracles He performed.  His resurrection substantiates it all. When He claimed Godhood and when He claimed that we will live forever with Him He substantiated all this by His resurrection.  He empowered the work that went on prior to His death and He led the way through Him dying.  His death shows us the example of honor, humility, restraint, LOVE, grace, mercy, and so forth. By His resurrection we see that all that He went through was not in vain and thus all we go through in this world will also not be in vain. For we will live in Heaven with Him for eternity.  This produces hope.

We have something to look forward to something to make all the pain, all the suffering, all the battles we go through okay.  Not only okay but worthwhile and beneficial.  We now have a reason to believe and work hard towards this goal.  The goal of an eternal relationship with God.   We can understand how what we give up here is nothing compared to what we receive.  In fact in time what we give up here we will not even see as giving up.  How do you really give up something that was not ours to begin with.  The only real thing we have is our relationship with Jesus and since He is alive we are able to have this relationship daily.

Why should we celebrate His resurrection?  Simply to live.

The Three Most Holy Days for Christians (part 2 of 3)

This post is going to go over Good Friday.   The first question is what is Good Friday?   This is an easy one.  Good Friday is the day Jesus was crucified read Matthew 27: 33-56 for the story.  The hard question is “Why is it called good?”

The answer is simple yet incredibly hard to accept.   Forgiveness.  That is the simple answer what makes it hard is that Jesus had to die so we could get forgiveness.  So the reason a sinless man was on the cross was exactly because He was sinless.  Our sin needed to be forgiven (so we put Him there) and this was the only way to do that.

In the Old Testament of the Bible God instituted a sacrificial system.  Ancient Israel would sacrifice lambs, bulls, birds and so forth as per the instructions from God.  The reason was simple any sin brought guilt on someone and the penalty of death.  God clearly stated that the penalty for sin is death, due to this God instituted the sacrificial system using the blood of animals instead of our own.  (this is called blood guilt)  The problem with the sacrificial system is the blood of animals did not take away the sins only covered them up.  This allowed God to not destroy humanity because of sin.  This did not solve the problem with sin it only put a band aide on it.  The true problem solver was Jesus.  When Jesus was born this was His purpose and only purpose.  There was  no other reason to come He was to provide a way for true forgiveness of sins and not just a covering of our sins.  This means that when Jesus the Christ forgives us our sins then they are gone.  As far as the east is from the west.  They are remembered no more and God the Father only sees the payment that Jesus made and then looks to us and says welcome good and faithful servant.  (even though some of us are not so faithful He sees us this way anyways)

The reason this day is Holy is simple this is the day Jesus voluntarily gave up His life.  He could have said no.  He could have called down angels and wiped out all the Roman and Jewish cohorts who had Him there.  He could have just walked off the cross and became God in front of everyone and everyone would have believed.  This is not what He wanted.  He wants us to make a choice.  He wants us to have faith. He wants us to live knowing there will be proof other than a personal relationship.  So each person has to find that proof themselves.  Science will never prove nor disprove God.  Philosophy will never prove nor disprove God.  Only in a personal relationship can we find proof that we will ever accept.

I want to address what would have happened if Jesus actually did not go through with it.  Remember in the garden He asked the Father to allow this to pass and lets try something different.  The Father said no.  Now Jesus being God could have done what He wanted to He could have said yes and not have gone through this.  What would have happened.  Honestly, this would have been absolute proof that He was not who He said He was.   In other words God will never be untrue to who He is and thusly even if everything else was just right and in the end He did  not follow through He would not have been who He said.  Thank fully He did go through this.  If He had not we would not have forgiveness.  We would not have someone else pay our debt a debt mind you that we are not able to pay.

Lets tie this together now.  Jesus had to die in fact if you read the Bible you will find that He knew this even before creation was made.  He decided to make creation anyways.  He had love for us even before we were created.  That love was their even knowing what we would do, say, think and so on.  He knew how often we would fail.  He knew how often we would really hurt those around us.  How often we would do things to ourselves that are just wrong.  He knew all this and decided to do it anyways because of love.

This is simply and explanation.  There are hundreds of Bible passages that relate to this and when I get to this section under my Systematic Theology section I will explore this in its entirety.  Thanks for your understanding as to why that is not done here.

Thankfully though the story does not stop there.  Be ready for part 3 next.

Faith of a Child or Apostasy

This is one of those contrast that I tend to find so interesting.  I am not sure if you will but here we go.

I want to start by defining apostasy.  The dictionary defines it as such:

a·pos·ta·sy

 [uhpos-tuh-see]  Show IPA

noun, plural a·pos·ta·sies.

a total desertion of or departure from one’s religionprinciples, party, cause, etc.
In our nation we have many apostates.  Apostates is someone who is in the state of apostasy.  Okay Okay I crossed a line I labeled someone.  The truth is still the truth.  There are many in our nation who have deserted their religion or faith.  They always seem to have a reason.  They can come up with many reasons such as Christianity is a myth just like other myths.  They say if their is a God then why is this world so hurting.  They say that they just can’t live by the standards that Jesus proclaims (what those standards are of mostly misunderstood but that is another post)  so they chose not to.  They say many many things but in the end they have deserted their religion or faith.  That makes them apostates.
This brings many questions the foremost to many is “Can an apostate ever return?”  This is a much debated question.  There are two main arguments that have dealt with this for a long long time.  The first one is Calvinism which simply states that once you make a decision for Christ there is no turning back and you can not become an apostate.  While the other extreme is Arminian where once you have become apostate there is no coming back.  Wesley had a different view that is you chose to become apostate then you can chose to come back under the grace and mercy of Christ.
Here is where I stand on this topic first I think that to be saved we need to make a choice to serve Jesus.
Romans 10:9
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

This is clear that you must confess and believe then Jesus forgives you and saves you.  I think often we are to quick to use sales techniques on getting folks to pray the sinners prayer.  I find that Jesus never did that.  He was hard and not easy.  What he said was so hard that at one point almost all those large crowds that seem to follow Him everywhere left Him and He turned to His disciples and said to them are you also going to leave Me.

        Once that choice is made I believe we are able to un make that choice and turn our backs on Christ.  We can choose to leave Him.  I do not believe that God wants to force folks to serve Him who do not want to serve Him.   Thus the whole reason for Faith and it is not just about believing that God exist (as the Bible says the demons believe and tremble) but it is more about submitting ourselves to His absolute authority.  This is hard pill to swallow.  I have noticed that when someone is first saved it is easy for a bit to follow Jesus and all He wants.  It quickly gets harder though.  Everything starts to go south and life sucks.  So we turn to Jesus and find that we do not get our expectations met.  This is where many people leave and go their own way then becoming apostate.
        If someone makes it through these initial troubles and learn something about living for Jesus and what that actually means and how He has decided to work in someone then the next challenge is often when someone has worked hard doing the correct thing and they expect a reward or recognition from God and they either do not get it or even if they do they find that it falls short.  The reason for this is because in their heart that is what they wanted.  They wanted the recognition or the reward.  God says that is all they will get then.  At this point many people get discouraged and become depressed.  This is hard battle for Christians.   The basic reason is because they believe that Christians should not have these struggles.  This of course is not true.  Read the Bible many great men and women of God struggled with emotions the ups and downs and everything in between.  If they allow this disappointment to continue in time they get discouraged and quit being part of a body of believers and grow cold.  There is often a point after this that they reject Christianity because it did not meet their expectations.  In doing this they also become apostate.
        There are many such instances where someone can do this the questions is there redemption is there a chance to return or a chance to repent or a chance to come back.  YES.
        Now that being said I also think that there comes a point where there is no return.  On both sides.  I mean I think there is a point where someone has made such choices where they will never want to come to Christ and a point where one has such a true relationship with Christ where they will never even think of going back (not perfect but true).   This is a topic for a different discussion. I just wanted to set the stage now I am going to discuss the next part the part about child like faith.  Then I will tie it all together.
        Mark 10:13-16

13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
15 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” 16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them. 

There are many other passages that go along the same lines as this passage.  The basic concept here is believing as children believe.
Let me state an example so that it will be clearer.  When you were a child and your mom said “Do not touch the stove it is hot and you will burn your hand” as a child you believed her.  Even if you still had a desire to do it you still believed.  You did not question is it hot or is she lying to me you simply believed.  Lets take it even deeper now.  When you were a young child and you mother said “I love you.” you believed her.  This was not a philosophical debate in you whether your mom loved you or not.  (I realize that as folks get older they may go through this debate).  The simplicity and innocent core of a child means they trust and they believe with out having to understand without having to have everything explained to them or without having a flow chart on the wall explaining the properties of physics as to why the stove is gets hot and how the heat burns your hand as well as what the next step should be or will be depending on how long you left it on.  All the child needs to know and expects to know is do not touch the stove or my mom loves me.
As we get older we start to add all sort of things and barriers to believing anything told us.  We start to question everything and even, in many cases, throw out all traditional ways for completely new ways.  We oft think that new ways are better simply because they are new.  We have lost the simplicity of children.
Ask any 6 year old and they will tell that most things in life really are black or white, right or wrong, good or bad.  They are blunt about it and they understand.  Far to many adults have lost the ability to take things at face value and believe.
We call this maturing and adult.  We call this good.  God does not in fact He so does not that He says if you can not come to Him as a child does (just believing) then you have no part in Him.  This is tough to swallow for most.  They believe their reasoning abilities should be taken into consideration.  As if they have something to add to the situation.  As humans we want to be more important then we are.  Maybe a better way to say this is we want to do things that are above us like a child does.  Children always want to do things they are not old enough to do and by the time they get old enough to do them they no longer want to they want something else they are not old enough to do.
God says our value comes not from what we do but from Him and Him alone.  That is also a hard pill to swallow.  How are we to set aside our own ideas and our own way of being?  Job answers this well.  After Job’s friends come around and condemn him over and over again based on their knowledge or their wisdom God steps in.  He shows them that they are only mere children to Him.  He challenged them in their understand and no one could stand before Him even Job could not who God found blameless.  The reason is this earth is only a stage to prepare us for the real life that comes once we leave this earth.  The problem is many do not understand this and their life is one that they want and not God.  I think of our time here on earth like a child in the womb of his/her mother.  The child may very well think they are masters of their realm.  They have no idea in anyway what is about to happen.  They could not know.  They have no way of seeing the outside until the outside sees them.  The only clues they could have would be the sounds they hear but they have  no reference so they are not able to tie the sound to anything.  In the same way the earth is our womb and Heaven is real life.  If God had not revealed Himself to us then we would have no way of knowing who He was.  We could not have known that the earth is created or that people have some place to go after our time of growth in the womb.  Even though there are things in creation that scream out Creator with out having the knowledge revealed to us that there was a Creator they would only be like white noise to us.  They would have no meaning.  We are only able to understand them because of revealed knowledge that God gave humanity.   Here comes the problem with this.  Many folks once they are out of the womb they are born into either heaven or hell.  So many like heave but many of those same folks dismiss hell as figurative.  The Bible is clear that both are real.  Our time in this womb of earth prepares us for one or the other.  If we want heaven then we need to believe Jesus like a child does.  Then we can truly start to mature and learn what is real.  Remember the Bible states that this earth is only a shadow of what is to come.  What we see here reflects similarities to what we will see in heaven but is in no real way the same out side of the reflection as in a mirror.
Our own intellect will never prevail our own wisdom will never prevail our pragmatism will never prevail we will never prevail.  The essence of coming to Jesus as a child is just that.  We are still in the womb and anything that is truly enduring and real can only be done when Jesus does it with us.  That is like a child being helped by his Parent to fix a car that the child could not even attempt if he was to do it by himself.
Now I want to tie this all together.  A bit weird putting these two subjects together but I strongly believe they are antithesis to each other.
Most apostates would consider themselves mature and adult while most Christians would consider themselves like little children.  I think the reason apostates become apostate is because they look to God using their own expectations their own reasonings or their own wisdom.  They think they know enough and can reason well enough to figure out God and when they can’t they figure there could be no God and this must be emotional, myth or some sort.  They can not imagine they may be actually wrong.  Think of Job’s friends they could not be wrong, as they sat their accusing Job over and over again.  The sad thing is even Job figured they had to be correct but he knew they were not so he was faced with a dichotomy and was not sure how to solve this problem.  Most apostates are stuck in this same dichotomy but they have decided and they decided that God is not their or if He is He can’t be how the Bible states it He must be aloof and uncaring.  I will not start this argument in this post. I want to stay on how these tie together but I will most definitely do this discussion some time.
I want folks to really think (especially  if you are apostate) why we have such a hard to believing like children do.  This will go a long ways to coming back to God from where ever you are.
I am dangerously close to the magic 2500 words our post should not pass.  I will stop then because I do hope to have someone read all this LOL.
God Bless.

The Three most Holy Days for Christians (part 1 of 3)

There are three days that stand out above the rest on the Christian Calendar.  The first would be Christmas (the Birth of Jesus) the second would be Good Friday (the Death of Jesus) and the third would be Easter Sunday (the Resurrection of Jesus).  I want to take a look at each of these and see how they are pivotal in the Christian world and how each one should be portrayed and why.  I will not make a determination as to which is more important I am of the opinion that they are equally important and are at the top of all history with nothing even near it in importance.

Lets start with Christmas.  This is the time we celebrate Jesus’s birth.  We all realize that He was not born on Christmas day but this is a day that we use today to remember His birth and why He was born.

Matthew 1:18-25 

18 Now the birth of Jesus [r]Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been [s]betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned [t]to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for[u]the Child who has been [v]conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for [w]He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this [x]took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name [y]Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 24 And Joseph [z]awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 [aa]but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

This passage give us the essence of what took place.  There are many more passages like this in other books.  The base concept we need to understand as Christians is that Jesus came from Heaven and took residence here on earth.  He did this of His own free will.

Philippians 2:5-11

Have this attitude [e]in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be [f]grasped, but [g]emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death [h]on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ isLord, to the glory of God the Father.

This passage clearly states that by Jesus leaving heaven He willingly took a lower station in life for the express purpose of following the will of God the Father.  Jesus was born into humble circumstances and lived in the same manner the whole time He honored His heavenly Father even to the point of death.

Why is this important?  Why make such a big deal of His birth?  Why not just honor His ever near presence?  All good questions and worth asking.  The point of Christians celebrating Jesus is to recognize His coming.  There are many amongst us now and through out history who have stated that Jesus never existed and that He was made up for the express purpose of supporting Christianity.  There are a number of ancient documents outside of Christianity that support His being born.  Most folks believe He lived even if they do not believe He is God.

The birth of Christ is a big deal for a number of reasons the foremost being that God became man and dwelt amongst us.  God dwelling among us is fantastic in fact so much so many question the viability of this statement.  This is where Faith steps in.  God expect us to have faith and without faith we are not able to please Him.  He wants folks who will make the choice to believe He does not want robots who are forced to serve Him.

I believe we are indeed supposed to honor His ever near presence.  I think we should at all times do this.  When looking at Christmas from this perspective it is important to think of the celebration of His birth as a singularity in time.  A time where God intersects with man in such a way that the entire world changed.  Think of our calendar system for just one example.  Our calendar system is based off of the birth of Jesus.  This singular moment when God became man and came to earth where God lived with us (as in the garden yet different) where God was our friend, confidant, teacher, servant, savior and more.  This is the one key pivotal moment in all of history where the One who started it all who spoke one word and history began is with us.  That is you and me He is with you and me.  It is this reason we celebrate Christmas.  I realize that the date we celebrate is not His actual birthdate but since no one knows His actual birth date it works for me.

The next article in this series will be on Good Friday.

 

Who is God? (per the Bible)

My series, Basic Christian Beliefs, is written for those who are Christian but do not have the basic concepts down. They can learn as well as those who are not Christian but would like to know the basic concepts of Christianity.  I am trying to keep it simple and basic.  I do love it when folks ask questions or comment on something (as everyone does) but disagreements I am saving to when I am done with Basic Christian Beliefs and into Systematic Theology.  That will be fun.  This article is going to be short.  I will write one much more in depth on who God is in the Systematic Theology category.  I want to paint a picture of the basic concept of who God is.

In the Bible you will find that God has many names usually reflecting attributes of Him.  They use these different names largely because they thought His name (I Am) was to holy to use flippantly.  So they came up with a more generic name God and they added to that many descriptives.  The essence of who God is on the basic level is simple.

Gen 1.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

We see God as Creator of everything.   John 1 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  We believe that with out God nothing was made that is.

1 John 4:8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

We believe that God is Love.  He is the embodiment of  what love is.  Please read 1 Corithians 13 to see how God defines what absolute love is.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5  “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

God wants a personal relationship with us in fact he wants one so much that He sent His only son Jesus the Christ to earth to die for us.  John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

In other words God has gone to great lengths to create an opportunity to have a relationship with us.

Matthew 26:28  for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

God forgives.  In fact each time we take communion we remember His forgiveness.  We remember the sacrifice that His son did so that we are able to get forgiveness.

How we as Christians view God is He is not bound by time in fact He is outside of time and sees all of time as one piece and can interact with it as He wills (He created time).  Through prayer we are able to know God and interact with Him on a personal basis.

I know this is short please if you have any questions or comments leave them.  This topic could and has filled many a book consider this the cliff notes version.  Thanks all and God Bless.