Salvation 101: Alive Again

salvation

May 24

Jesus… will save His people from their sins.” (from Matthew 1:21)

We have been talking about what sin does to us – and of the devastating effects it has on our lives. It separates us from God (our Life Source) and it separates us from His divine calling and purpose for us. In the Bible, this separation is called: “death.”

It is this “death” (i.e. lack of Life) that deeply effects every area of our lives. Distorting, twisting, bending, and breaking every aspect of who we were made to be (“from the foundation of the earth” – Ephesians 1:4).

Yesterday, we summarized the effects caused by our sin (guilt, judgment [condemnation], slavery to sin, brokenness, aimlessness and the numbing of our souls). These things comprise the human condition – of which the apostle simply described as being: dead in trespasses and sins…” (Ephesians 2:1)

spiritual-death

Obviously, the solution to our problem is to become… undead.

This is exactly the opportunity that God has provided to us through the redeeming work of Jesus. His suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension all occurred so that WE might come alive in Him and through Him.

Jesus’ redeeming work addressed every one of our souls’ needs – providing a resolution to every single one of sin’s devastating effects on our lives.

I’ll say that again: every thing that sin did to destroy us… has been completely addressed and resolved through the work of Jesus!

death-defeated

How is this possible? And (more importantly) how do we access everything that Jesus did for us?

Everything begins with a simple understanding…

Death came because of a separation from God. As flowers are cut from the plant, we are cut off from God (by our sin). God is our Life Source… and without what He brings to our lives, we are (as the flowers) destined to slowly wilt and “return to dust.”

dead flowers

There is nothing in this world that can bring us the life we need. We were MADE to live off of one True Life Source.

The solution to our death problem is a reversal of the problem. We need to become reconnected with God.

This is what Jesus has made possible (and another reason why He is the ONLY way to God). Only Jesus took every one of our sins upon Himself. Our guilt became His guilt. Only Jesus took the judgment and condemnation for our sins. Our judgment became His judgment. Jesus not only took our sins, He took our griefs and sorrows. Our brokenness became His brokenness.

death of Jesus 2

But here’s where it gets really good… Everything Jesus did was so that we might share in Who He is and what He has done. Romans 6:3-11 tells us that (for those who believe) when He died, we died with Him. When He was buried, we were buried with Him. And when He was resurrected, we were resurrected with Him – but not to live the same old life, the same old way we used to live.

Jesus gave us a new way of living. He offered us the gift of a complete reconnection with the One Who gives us Life.

Salvation is living by this reconnection with God. What we were originally designed to be and do, has been completely restored through Jesus.

The true Christian life is simply living life by the Life that we have now because we are restored to relationship and communion with the One Who made us.

life-restored-thru-jesus

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Sin, and What it Does; pt. 2

May 23

eph 2 1

Yesterday, we talked about the concept of “death” in the Bible. It does not mean to cease to exist… it means to be separated from that which gives life to us.

The great problem is outlined in our verse for today… All of us are separated from the One Who alone gives us the life we need – and our sin did the separating. This creates a condition of our souls that the Bible calls “death.”

Before we move on to the solution to our condition – we need to grasp the depth of the effects of sin (and death) on our lives…

guilt 1Guilt. Even the smallest of sins makes us guilty before a pure and holy God. We can tell ourselves that we are not that bad or we are innocent or we compare quite favorably to others who have done more bad things than we have. But in the eyes of the ONLY Judge that matters – every act of sin makes us completely guilty before Him. One of the Holy Spirit’s primary tasks is to make us aware of our guilt.

Judgment DayJudgment. The Bible tells us that the guilty will not go unpunished – and because we are all guilty of sin… judgment has already been pronounced on everyone who sins. Jesus told us that our condemnation will not happen someday (at the final judgment) but that we are condemned right now (John 3:17-18). Most people are not aware that our sentence, because of our sin, has already been declared – and that we all deserve to pay that terrible price for our sins.

slave to sinSlavery. Jesus was very clear: “everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34) The apostle was just as straightforward: “you are slaves to the one you obey, whether you are slaves to sin leading to death, or to obedience leading to righteousness.” (Rom. 6:16). Sin is not just something we do – it is something that does to us. It wraps us in unbreakable chains and binds us to our selfish ways. Every person who sins is a lifelong prisoner to the relentless taskmaster of sin.

broken lifeBrokenness. Sin shatters lives. Sin devastates relationships. Our struggles with anxiety, addictions, guilt, regrets, unwarranted fear, destructive behaviors, and vain thinking are all the products of our broken souls. We try in vain to put our broken pieces back together (self-help), but we are always a bit skewed – and forever prone to the powerful influence of our faults and weaknesses. What is more… broken people do broken things – which keeps us bent on the things that reveal just how broken we really are.

aimlessAimlessness. Sin robs us of our divine identity. It causes us to lose all sight of the fact that we were made in God’s Own image – for God’s divine purposes. Our immense value is found in God’s purpose for each of us. Sin takes away our ability to see this purpose – and keeps us wallowing in our lack of value and meaning.

Anesthetic. One of the often-missed effects of sin is the fact that it numbs our souls. Sin Numbcauses the long slow sleep that can keep us lost in our sins – and gradually make us to lose sight of our need for a solution. The world and its philosophies (including religion) can also add to this numbing effect produced by sin. We need our souls awakened from the numbing power of sin.

The picture seems quite bleak. Our world is literally filled with people who are broken, aimless, and numb to their true state (separated from God, guilty, condemned, and deserving of judgment).

But here’s the amazing thing… God looked at the state of the world (full of sin and death) and rather than turn away (or start over!)… He decided to come and live in the midst of it. He came to bring His light into the darkness – and to reveal that His life is the light of men. (John 1:4)

Light of Men

And in the end: “God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal Life.”

Jesus came not only to die… but to deal a death blow to sin and its horrid effects on every person’s life who truly believes in Him.

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Salvation 101: Sin, and What it Does

May 22

Yesterday, we talked about salvation and discipleship (mostly discipleship)… but I felt compelled to spend some time talking about what salvation means and how it is essential to our lives.

What does salvation entail? What does it bring to our lives? How do we experience salvation? These are important questions that deserve solid answers…

To understand Biblical salvation we need to understand the problem of sin and its horrible effects upon our souls and spirits…

sin1

In the very beginning, God gave the original man and woman one warning: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17)

But what did God mean when He spoke of this certain death? We know, from the account, that even after eating from the forbidden tree, the man and the woman continued to remain alive. So God must have been focusing on something else.

His focus is a principle of Scripture: death is always connected with separation. James teaches: “As the body without the spirit is dead…” (James 2:26a) When our spirits are separated from our bodies… we are physically dead.

body without spirit

So when God mentions death as the punishment for eating the forbidden fruit, His focus was not completely on physical death (though this is also true), but on spiritual death… a separation from that which gives life to human beings.

We see an example of this whenever we cut flowers from a living plant. We bring the flowers inside, and place them in a vase, but now they are separated from that which gives them life. They are destined to “death” as soon as we separate them from their source of life. From our perspective, they will “certainly die.” The death (by separation) occurred when we cut the flowers from their life source.

Cut-Flowers

This is what happened to human beings in one act of sin. Mankind severed themselves from their own Source of Life – God, their Creator. No longer could we draw direct “sustenance” from our Creator. Sin separated us from Him – it broke the unbroken relationship… and destined us to the slow death that consumes all things which are separated from that which gives them life.

This one act also opened the door to all of mankind’s most pressing spiritual needs – the needs which torment our souls, and cause us to seek to fill these needs with any means possible. We are like the cut flowers… only we are longing to reconnect with a life source… (often times) ANY “life” source.

The problem is that there is only ONE Source that can bring us the life we need – though we are prone to seeking life from all kinds of other places. Every one of our addictions traces back to this need to bring back the life to our lives. Every pursuit we may pour ourselves into (many of them positive) is, essentially, our attempt to restore the life back to our lives. And our consuming passion to find meaning and value is the constant ache of our souls… yearning for the life that we need.

alcohol-addiction  Climb-the-corporate-ladder  MEANING-OF-LIFE-LOGO-2017-web

Unfortunately, every path that we seek (outside of Christ) will ultimately leave us unfulfilled and still yearning for the life we need.

So we often turn our attention to pleasure, relationships, or entertainment (NOT necessarily bad things) to fill the aching void. We try to fill our lives with vices or questionable (even deviant or destructive) behaviors… all in our attempt to fill the lifeless void within us.

In the end, there is only ONE Life Source from which we were created to draw the life we need. And Jesus came to be that Life Source.

John testified: “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:4) Every other source (no matter how promising) can never bring the light we need.

light-of-the-world

Jesus came to make a way for us “cut flowers” to be re-attached to our Source.

This miraculous re-connection is what we call salvation…

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Salvation and Discipleship

May 21

I have a really good friend who asks some great questions from time to time.

I thought his latest question would make a solid basis for one of our talks…

The question has to do with when the original disciples of Jesus were saved. Were they “saved” when Jesus selected them to follow Him? Or did they become “saved” at some later point (after Jesus’ death and resurrection)?

12 Disciples called

Obviously, we are talking about two separate things. In the New Testament, salvation and discipleship are connected together… but they are also different – with different points of emphasis.

Essentially, salvation is what God has done for us through Jesus. It is HIS gift to us – through the work of Christ. It is freely given… and freely received.

freegift

Discipleship is what WE do for God… our gift to Him, because of what He has done for us. It is our proper response to the grace that God poured out to us in salvation. Jesus gave His life for us… we choose to give our lives to Him. Completely.

Jesus did not command the disciples to “Go into the world and get people saved.” He commanded them to “go and make disciples.” The goal in mind was (and is) always discipleship (wholly surrendered hearts)… not just salvation.

makedisciples

A proper understanding of salvation should lead us to the understanding that we now belong to God. What He gives to us can only be properly received by those who grasp that we owe everything to Him. We might just as well say that any “salvation” that does not lead us to a complete surrender to God means that we just didn’t understand what salvation means – what it cost God… and it’s cost to us, in return.

Though God wants us to spend eternity with Him… that is not the goal of salvation. The goal is that we would willingly surrender ourselves to His purposes here on this earth – that God would be able to work in, and through, people HERE… before we even get to there.

phili 2 13

God can only work through people here who have surrendered to Him here (disciples!). This means that we abandon our hopes and dreams to take up the hopes and dreams of the Most High. The Bible tells us that these hopes and dreams have been in God’s Mind before the “foundations of the earth.” (Ephesians 1:4-5) Before we were ever born… God had in Mind what He wanted to do through us – to His glory.

All He seeks from us is that complete surrender that discipleship requires. This is where salvation should lead us. God’s complete sacrifice… demands our own.

surrendered 1

Until we are completely surrendered, we just cannot walk in the fullness of why we were created – because our eternal destiny is dependent upon our surrender to the ways and will of God.

As we notice… Jesus’ disciples didn’t really “get it” until after they were saved – which came, as I understand it, after Jesus’ death and resurrection (see John 20:22). But after their salvation (and receiving the Holy Spirit) all the lessons they learned in walking with Christ came to fruition. They understood, and began to implement, what the Master had imparted to them. Their discipleship became empowered!

As for us, God’s gift of salvation calls us to a deeper life – a life where God lives in, and works through, those whose hearts are completely surrendered to Him.

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Psalm Fourteen:2-3

1PS

May 20

“The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14:2-3)

The question has been debated for ages… Are people intrinsically good… or bad?

The Psalmist answers the question assertively. He captures the Heart of God and gives us an indispensable understanding – the right starting place, if we are ever going to find the fullness of life that God offers us.

From God’s viewpoint, we were created “good.” Very good, in fact. Perfect physical and spiritual reflections of the Almighty Himself.

Adam

But then, things went south. Way south… In no time flat.

Sin entered the mix and did more than just separate us from God… Sin corrupted us. Spoiled us. Defiled us. Beyond repair. In an instant, sin turned us from intrinsically good… to bad – from being perfect reflections of God’s image into self-centered, self-absorbed creatures who seek to establish and elevate our own image.

The Bible calls this… wickedness.

In the New Testament, the apostle begins with these same words, from the Psalmist, and paints the picture of our sorry state before God…

scroll-background

Even worse, is that the Bible tells us that, ever since that first sin, this “wickedness” has been passed down from person to person, generation to generation. We are (at our core) seeking our own ways, and our own good. We are inherently… self-centered.

As anyone who understands about the nature of recovery knows, we must start with accepting the bad news before we can ever get to the good. This is what God wants us to understand. We are not just “off a tick” in need of some tweaks. We are a shambles, in need of a complete and utter makeover.

sad

In fact, we are in such a mess that there is no way to fix what we have become. We ARE broken, beyond repair. It is our natural and inescapable state.

 But God did something amazing… He decided to make us new. He made a way for us to leave the old utterly-broken self behind us… and to BE a brand new creation.

The message of the gospel is that we cannot save ourselves. We cannot fix ourselves. God will not even fix our old broken selves.

But He doesn’t have to fix us. Jesus came to make the way for each of us to die so that we could live again. Through Jesus, we die to the old person (the messed-up hot mess we were) and are “born” into a whole new way of living… AS a whole new person, with a new heart and new abilities. This is the essence of what it means to be born again.

As a baby leaves behind one realm of existence and is birthed into a new realm… so it is with us. “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17) Upon receiving what Jesus has done for us… we are immediately “born” anew.

In-Christ-A-New-Creation

Different reality. Different heritage. Different way of doing things. Different power at work within us. Different results to what we do.

All because we have given up on the notion that we are good… and just need a few improvements (or better motivations)… We have realized the hopelessness of our own efforts at being good (at pleasing God) and simply trust in the One Whose efforts were perfect and Whose sacrifice (on our behalf) pleased God… forever!

on_cross

The Psalmist reminds us of one other real effect of a perpetual trust in God… “God is present in the company of the righteous.” (14:5)

The New Testament promises one better… “God is the Present of the company of the righteous.” When we receive Him, we receive everything that His Presence brings to our lives. Him in us, working through us – being the only good that truly matters.

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Natural Selection

Speed of Particles

May 19

If you spend any time looking into evolution and its claims, you will run into a commonly-used phrase… “natural selection.” This concept is at the forefront of evolution. Some even see it as the hallmark of evolutionary thinking.

Origin of speciesIn fact, it was predominantly displayed as the subtitle of Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

Darwin saw natural selection as the means by which organisms survived because of favorable genetic variations that were inherited from their ancestors. Author of the book Evolution, Douglas Futuyama, defined natural selection as: “The differential survival of and/or reproduction of classes of entities that differ in one or more characteristics.”

In a world of “survival of the fittest” natural selection was the explanation behind why the fit survived.

Most Creationists do not object to the science behind natural selection. It happens. It is observable. Certain genetic differences within a species enable certain members of that species a better chance to survive – and to pass on these favorable genetic traits to their offspring. It is even observed that many species can genetically adapt to their environment – thus ensuring the strengthening and survival of their species. Evolution’s iconic examples of “Darwin’s finches” and the peppered moths scientifically prove this ability to adapt and survive.

darwins-finches

peppered_moth_wide

But that is not where evolutionary thinking stops.

Characteristically, evolutionists extrapolate beyond the science and then use the science to support their postulations and theories…

In Darwin’s day, he was aware of the efforts of animal and plant breeders working diligently to produce strains of animals or plants to meet certain favorable criteria. The breeders worked with their subjects’ genetic variations to isolate those variations and direct them towards improvements in the characteristics they found most desirable. This is why we now have Chihuahuas and Great Danes – all from the same “dog” DNA. These are genetic variations at work.

 chihuahua     Great-Dane

Darwin noticed the malleability of genetic material and observed how adaptations could be made. It is this adaptability that led him to speculate about the possibility that these adaptations might be endless – and, given enough time (and the right circumstances), could produce entirely different species. It didn’t take long for him to go all the way back to the beginning and imagine a common ancestor responsible for each and every species on earth.

ancestry-descent

Darwin looked to natural selection as the mechanism that would make these kinds of dramatic changes possible – even plausible. In his mind, these genetic adaptations would arise in a species, and enhance their ability to survive. Then, these adapted traits would be passed on to their progeny. The offspring would experience more favorable adaptations, survive, and pass those genetic changes on to their offspring. And on and on… until those genetic changes were so different from the original sources that they would BE an entirely new species.

There you have it… the (surprisingly simple) mechanism of evolution.

There’s only one problem… Darwin’s speculation has NO scientific support. We have not observed an entirely new species evolving from a previous (and different) species. And what we can observe (the fossil record) offers no support either. We see tons of adaptations but still have yet to see the confirming evidence of a transitional form (say: a half-reptile, half-bird) in the fossil record.

dinosauroid

Without proof of such sweeping changes (evolution) it is more likely that adaptation comes with limitations. It seems more accurate (according to the data) that natural selection just might be limited in scope and function.

Of course, this is what Creationists would expect to find. We believe that our Creator created all organisms after their own kind – and equipped those organisms with the amazing genetic capability to adapt to all manner of changing conditions.

What is more… all the evidence supports this view much better than the speculations of men, like Darwin, who possessed such vivid imaginations…

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Righteous Anger

jesus-scourages-money-changers

May 18

Be angry, yet do not sin…” (Ephesians 4:26a)

Yesterday, we saw that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” The key emphasis was upon the anger OF MAN.

Scripture never commands us NOT to be angry. Anger is not necessarily a sin (though it can certainly lead us to do or say things we may regret).

As in all things, anger has its time and place… the real key is KNOWING what that time and place may be.

We certainly see that God (in the Old Testament) can get angry. Yet, in His anger He does not sin (God’s actions are always right – even if we don’t understand them).

angry-god

The epistles of the New Testaments have their moments when the author is angry (Gal. 3; James 4; among others) yet, in that anger, Holy Scripture is produced to lead generations of believers in God’s truth.

And most important of all… Jesus had His moments of anger…

In Mark 3:4-5, Jesus heals a a man with a withered hand. But this good work occurred on a Sabbath and the Jewish leaders were none too happy about it. Neither was Jesus… He was angry at the hardness of their hearts (and for stubborn legalism that suspended kindness just so a Holy day could be “properly” kept).

withered hand healed

Of course, we all know about Jesus and His encounter with the money-changers at the Temple. The anger of Jesus was doled out against those who were “lawfully” cheating the people (and abusing their authority, to fill the Temple coffers). In the wake of overturned tables and hundreds of coins rolling everywhere, Jesus gives the motivation for His actions: “It is written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer.’ But you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'” (Mt. 21:13)

righteous anger

And who can forget Matthew 23 and Jesus’ rant against the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees. These were not soft words to “win friends and influence people” – these were words of the sharpest judgment against those who had mastered the letter of the Law, while ignoring It’s spirit.

Woe unto You

In all these examples, we learn that it is quite possible to be angry and yet not sin.

Do we see any guidelines for our own lives? Certainly…

We learn that anger can be righteous when it is exposing hypocrisy. Those who “preach, but do not practice,” (Mt. 23:3) were the target of Jesus’ anger – because they held the authority in Jewish culture and they were misrepresenting God. They had made Him to be a god of rules and punishments – and Jesus came to set the record straight.

We learn that anger can be righteous in preserving the truth. Through Jesus and the apostles, we often see that truth deserves a strong defense… and falsehood (especially when it arises among God’s people) merits swift, decisive, and appropriate action(often, in Scripture, those in error get a holy “spanking!”)

And lastly, anger can be righteous when it is in defense of the hurting or helpless. Jesus never got angry when He was mistreated or slandered – even publicly. Neither did the apostles. But when other people were hurt or abused, they would come to the defense of the hurting and helpless – sometimes in an angry display.

This last point is most potent. We tend to view how WE are treated as a justification for vicious responses (we won’t start the fight… but we will sure end it!). But Jesus’ words to us are devastating to this mindset. He taught His people the importance of facing revfunpersonal suffering with an attitude of submission, not retribution. “If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also.” (Luke 6:29) And the apostle admonishes: “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” (Rom. 12:17) In other words, we have no right to be angry when personally wronged. Set a different example. Show the world that we will leave vengeance in God’s Hands (see Rom. 12:19)

A simple axiom arises: If God is angry about something… we should be as well. Let the God Who dwells within us lead us and guide us… even in the expression of anger.

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Anger and Righteousness

May 17

“The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

Yesterday, we talked about the Godly wisdom of being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

James1-19

We notice immediately that we are never exhorted to merely “keep silent” – but to weigh our responses carefully (taking the time to honestly perceive how our words might be heard by the one to whom we are listening).

But we also notice that we are taught to be slow to anger. What is interesting is that there is no command (or implication) to avoid anger altogether.

be angry

This is important because so many Christians are under the distinct impression that anger is wrong… and that to be angry is a sin.

This is taught nowhere in Scripture.

There are admonitions against “fits” of rage and warnings against contentious persons (someone who seems to delight in picking fights with people). But I find no place where anger is regarded as a sin.

BUT… anger can often lead us to sin. And it is a pretty quick path. Anger can get us into acts of unrighteousness often without being aware of what we are doing.

Slippery-Slope

Anger causes us to lose self-control – and without self-control, each and every one of us can get pretty ugly in a hurry.

This is why, in today’s verse, the apostle follows up on his sage advice (in v. 19), by explaining why it is so essential that we are slow to speak and even slower to get angry. “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

In its simplest understanding, the “anger of man” is something we must guard against. It is the kind of anger that often wells up from within us and explodes like a volcano (deluging our target with molten ire!). It is volatile in nature… and abrupt in process – it is the proverbial can of gasoline just waiting for the match to strike.

gas-match

And here’s the really bad news… every one of us can access the “anger of man” at any moment. We don’t even have to work at it. It is inbred within us. It is indelibly attached to our sinful nature.

That’s why people who struggle with “anger issues” are such ticking time bombs. They are usually the most wounded inside, they usually have the deepest hurts, and it is in their greatly-damaged nature to lash out (almost as a defense mechanism).

anger issues

But ALL of us are prone to anger. Whenever we are frustrated, irritated, upset, confused, tired, or inconvenienced… our default mode is to express what we are feeling – and to let our feelings lead us down the slippery slope where we can lose our self-control and allow our anger consume us (even if just briefly).

James points us to the reason why we just can’t allow human anger to have its way in our lives. Anger cannot help us to do the one thing we need to do most. We were born again to “produce the righteousness of God.” This means right actions, right words… just as God does. The works of God, the goodness of God, the right actions of God are intended to flow from our lives. Each and every day.

But these are the things that are missing whenever we allow our human anger to take charge. All that flows from our anger is the virulent stuff of the worst that human beings can be.

Nothing at all like the character and nature of the God we are called to imitate.

Ephesians-5 1

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Quick and Slow (x2)

 May 16

James 1-19

Have you ever heard anyone say (with a great deal of pride): “Well, you know me… I just speak my mind.”

They are the kind of folks who are quick to tell you what they are thinking… and what you should be thinking, as well. They are lightning fast in giving you a piece of their mind (and most often, their words tell everyone that they need to be keeping all the pieces they can!).

Of these folks, I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who gave some awesome advice:

Better to be silent

I have noticed (as a general observation about our current culture) that so many people are the exact opposite of what James admonishes. Most are slow to listen, quick to speak, and ultra-quick to get angry. People get bent out of shape about the strangest (and the most insignificant) things.

It sure appears to me that in a culture that seems intent on not offending anyone – that there are more offended people than ever. You can’t turn on the TV news without seeing coverage of protests somewhere about something – sometimes it honestly looks like people just want to be angry about something… anything.

Is there a time to speak up (even protest)? Certainly. There is a time and a place for everything. If there are issues of concern, the concerned should speak up. This is right and proper.

But know your cause. Understand your issue. And try your best to understand the other person’s issues as well. Ignorance, even when shouted loudly… is still just ignorance.

protestors-shouting.jpg

We would all do well to get back to heeding James’ advice.

listeningWe should try our level best to understand what someone may be saying – we should major in really listening (with an intent to truly grasp what someone may be thinking, beyond their words).

We should be slow to speak. “He who restrains his lips is wise.” (Prov. 19:10b) The idea of being “slow to speak” is not about talking slowly (although that may be helpful) but to take our time and think before we speak. The original language for this word “slow” means “to take time, to be deliberate.” Think how much more readily our issues could be resolved if both sides were never in a hurry to voice their own “pet opinions” on any particular matter.

angerAnd lastly, we should be slow to anger. Really slow. This is the hard one. Because any time someone gets adamant about an issue to which we object… we don’t want to listen, we don’t want to understand, we don’t even want to work things out – we just want to put our opponent in his/her place.

Solomon’s wisdom applies big-time: “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly…” (Prov. 14:29; see also 16:32; 17:27)

No one ever wins a shouting match.

I think it is time for Christians to step to the forefront in addressing the issues of our culture. But not in the way in which we normally do (Jump in, denigrate people’s opposing views, tell them to get their act together… or else! And jump out).

Jesus said something we should begin to take to heart…

Mt 5 9

Christians alone have the model for how to address the issues of our society — and bring the peace of the Prince of Peace to people’s lives. James gave it to us – as the way in which we should live.

And as we do, we will be reflecting the One Who enables us to live that way – and they will look at us (as God’s children) and see HIM more clearly.

Posted in culture, Daily devotional, Peace in Christ, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Time for Everything

 May 15

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

It has been said…

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Solomon may have been the first to coin this phrase. It was certainly on his mind when he wrote these famous words in the Book of Ecclesiastes. In his wisdom, he drew our attention to the fact of the importance of doing the right thing at the right time – and of NOT doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

In short, know your surroundings, use wisdom in what you do and say (or in what you don’t) and above all else… make sure the time is right.

wrong time wrong place

Reflecting back on the commencement speaker I talked about yesterday, she failed to act in wisdom – she let her passion for her agenda lead her to where she should not have gone. Her words were inappropriate for the setting (and contentious to most of her audience). She chose to make her “issue” the spotlight instead of the graduates she was supposed to inspire. Her words were not necessarily wrong – they just came at the wrong time in the wrong place.

That got me to thinking… what if the headline speaker was a pro-life advocate rather than an anti-gun proponent. The pro-life speaker would have been just as wrong to unleash a diatribe against the tragedy of abortion.

The agenda doesn’t really matter… if the time is wrong and the place is wrong – even what we adamantly believe to be right… is wrong!

That leads me to this… as Christians, we need to be especially diligent with when and how we share the good news of Jesus. If we are not very careful, we can spend all our time talking AT people, instead of speaking WITH people. The difference is a matter of relationship… and building to a moment of proper timing.

Just recently, I watched a video of a crowded marketplace where a group of zealous “Christians” were confronting and berating people because of their sin – and loudly reminding them of the judgment that was coming, unless they repented.

Ruben says REPENT

I cringed. My heart fell. These “Christians” felt like they were doing the Lord’s work by proclaiming “the gospel” – but all they were really doing was alienating people further from the God Who loves them.

There was nothing IN their message (or in how they presented it) that compelled them towards God. All they seemed to accomplish was to repel people from God.

This observation is all the more important when we realize that their message was essentially true. We are all sinners, already condemned to judgment for our sins – and judgment is a sure thing, unless we turn our hearts to God.

But their hearts behind that message did not reflect the Heart of the One Who gave the message. And any message (as true as it is) has such limited power to change minds and hearts… IF the message is not centered in a true love and concern for the ones hearing it.

When we look at the life and ministry of Jesus, He was often proclaiming the truth of people’s need for repentance from their sins. But His message was always centered in the compassion of God. His message always flowed out of the times when He loved on people… first!

Jesus healing 2

Jesus made it a point to connect with people before He confronted their deepest need. He earned the right to speak into their lives, before He spoke the truth to them.

It is the one thing we often miss when it comes to talking to people about the “right” thing that we are so passionate about.

Any message, no matter how right, almost always needs the bond of relationship before it can be truly heard.

Posted in Daily devotional, God's kindness, Just Like Jesus, Love, True Christianity, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment