Playing God

My mother was a perfectionist. I remember taking my coloring book to her to show her my latest work. She said, “Oh, honey, that’s very good! I like the colors you used. And, if you had stayed inside line right there,” (pointing) “it would have been just perfect.”.

The funny part was, I was never disappointed. After all, she really liked what I had done. So I’d go color another picture – being very careful to make it, …“perfect”.

I became a Scout. Three years a Cub Scout. Three more as a Boy Scout. And, three more as an Explorer Scout. By the way, the Boy Scout motto is, “Be Prepared”. That was 9-years of “preparation”!

Later in life, I became an Air Force pilot. An occupation that left little room for mistakes and/or failures to plan. (A significant number of military aircraft are very unforgiving of mistakes!)

I became an Emergency War Order Planning Officer. We wrote the plans to implement the missions our Wing was assigned to fly if we went to (nuclear) war. We also wrote plans for deployments and emergency movements. After writing the plans, we would pour over our work doing “what-ifs”. Every sortie had a mission – and, a priority. “What if, sortie 3 doesn’t get started? Which sortie do we divert to take it’s place? What’s the ripple effect from that decision?” On, and on, and, …on.

I tell you this so you can see how I became something of a perfectionist, and a person who is always looking for the “potential point of failure, etc)”. I also want to share with you that this will affect your personal life; and more importantly, your walk with Christ

I can drive my wife to distraction with questions and what-ifs. She sometimes accuses me of negativity. I take umbrage, and tell her I just, “…want to be ready in case things go cross-wise”. She informs me our marriage is going to go cross-wise if I don’t let up. (But, she smiles when she says it.)

So here I am, constantly looking for potential problems or flaws in my plans: and the plans of others – when they involve my family or me . When I find flaws (or even just potential flaws) I start working to assure that I have the answers, solutions, explanations or whatever else may be required, instantly ready to be applied, when/if needed.

And that kind of thinking, folks, is bogus and sinful on many levels. It is also dangerous thinking. It gives Satan a foothold in my life – which I want to avoid like the plague. It’s a source of stress – which I don’t need. Sometimes it builds ego – which I don’t need. It causes friction within my marriage, and in relationships with family and friends – which, I certainly don’t need, or intend. But, most importantly, it is damaging to my relationship with Christ.

Have you ever thought about this? From the beginning of our life here on earth, (this applies to everyone), God knows our entire story. Everything! Nothing is hidden! Why is this important? Because regardless of everything else, God already has, or is going to offer you both adoption and eternal life. “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” [Eph 1:5, NLT]

I must tell you that it is not an open ended offer. It is good only until Christ returns to earth – or, we reach our departure date and time. Whichever happens, we will be “sifted”. Christians will join the family in Heaven. Non Christians won’t.*

So God, who is omniscient – meaning: having infinite awareness, understanding and insight; and, omnipotent – meaning: having unlimited power, force and authority, …actually made a considered choice to include me if I would subjugate my freewill, and trust in Jesus. I did!

In all honesty I’m telling you, I have a problem – of sorts. I find myself trying to play god! Not only that, I’m trying to play god while God knows, and, I should know, all that talk about trying to be perfect and having all the correct answers is so much, …fertilizer. Yet I turn my back on him to pursue my own plans. Now, …How. Dumb. Is. That?!

Then why did I say, “a problem – of sorts”? Because, I really do know exactly how to fix this Problem.

My planning for solutions to the unexpected – in an unknown future, is a oxymoron. It is also worry, arrogance, and foolishness! It is also Satan using me to take a jab at God. And, it’s time to repent; and, ask Jesus for forgiveness. It’s not that I’ve lost my salvation. I haven’t. But, I am sinning, and I need to stop. And to stop I need help. Supernatural help. And I need to apologize to my best friend.

Might there be consequences from the plans I’ve already set in motion? Absolutely! I’ll get what I’ve earned. And, both the good (if any) and bad consequences (much more likely) will be “good”. Good, like when even a blind pig occasionally finds an acorn. And, the “unfavorable consequences” will be the lessons I need to internalize so that I don’t keep repeating my stupidity. I know God will help me. He chose me; and adopted me. He not only has a plan for my life; but, tells me time and again that He will never forget nor forsake me; that He has my back; and, wants only the best outcomes for me. He is slowly but surely perfecting me. But, because I live on planet earth, total perfection won’t occur during my lifetime. There is nothing perfect on earth, …yet.

Prayer:

Father, (Abba),

I can’t even begin to fathom your love for me. But, I do understand it well enough to know that when I come to you, broken and contrite, you never fail to set with me, brush away my tears, listen to my pleadings, and hug me close. Oh, how I thank you for those times.

Lord, you have blessed me greatly — far beyond my dreams. Yet I some- times get impatient or discouraged when dreams, plans, or prayers, seem to have gone astray. At these times, will you please remind me of all the times you have answered, …and all the times I have not even noticed or acknowledged your provision, …and it’s perfection.

Lord, please continue teaching me to rely on your love and grace. Forgive my egotism and conceit. Please help me to restore the relationships my pride and conceit have damaged. Show me the truth of your words; and make my testimony effective when talking with others in their times of need.

Lord I know you are still on the job and in control. Your provision has never failed me. I will praise your name forever. Amen.

Larry

* The straight truth is: 1. God loves his creation of man (and woman) more than any other. 2. When Adam and Eve sinned (by doing the only thing God told them not to do), they (not only) brought sin, separation from God and eventual death, into their own selves (body and soul), they also introduced it to the entire planet and all future generations. 3. God is Holy and cannot abide sin—in any form or amount. 4. But God is also love, …and grace. And so, from his great love and grace, God came up with a plan that could save mankind from eternal death. 5. For 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. [Jn. 3:16, NLT]

All we need do is: accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The only one who can forgive and cleanse our sins when we repent of them and ask for forgiveness. When we do that, we become Christians. The Holy Spirit moves into us; and will reside in us while we live our lives on earth. And then, let’s not forget that we will have a perfected body and soul while living an eternal life in the presence of God.

If you don’t take that simple step; or, you intend to – but just don’t get it done; or, you go through the motions thinking you can “fake it” and continue living your previous “good times” life; …PEASE believe me! You are doomed to eternity in Hell. Period!** A place were there is NO good thing. Not one!

Christ is offering you a new life. A “do over” of immense proportion. Jesus will be your guide. You won’t become magically perfect. But you will change. And God promises you will change far beyond your expectations; if, you give him the reins.

** God is Just. Children, too young to understand God’s plan, will not go to Hell. There will be children in heaven.

The bible tells us that we are born with the ability to know and search for God. As we find new cultures on earth, we have never found even one that did not have a god or gods; and, codes of “right” and “wrong”. The Bible also tells us in the Old Testament – before God sent Jesus to earth (as the only possible sacrifice for our sins) many people “found favor” with God.

So, I believe those who have never had the “Good News” of the New Testament explained to them will still be judged by God. And, those in whom He “finds favor” will go to heaven. But only God knows those “requirements”. I believe the great “I AM” will make “perfectly correct decisions”.

 

Who Am I?

Thanks for asking.

The simplest answer is, “I am a unique creation of Yaweh.” And, I’d like to add, “So are you!

I hope that doesn’t offend you; but if it does, I’m afraid you’re going to have to live with it. You can choose to ignore it, …but you can’t change it. And ignoring it isn’t going to work to your advantage in the long run.

You see, Yaweh is the one true God of all creation—the God of the Jews and Christians. Yaweh is the creator of the universe—and, every thing in it. Most importantly for this discussion, He created every human as a unique individual.

Have you ever really thought about just how unique you are? On the molecular level, consider your DNA. That alone distinguishes you from the vast majority of all humans wandering the planet. Other distinguishing physical traits are your unique finger-prints and retinal-prints.

Then there is personality—a small percentage of which you inherited from your mother and father. If you grew-up with siblings, think about the common experiences you shared. Did they effect everyone in the exact same way? Do you remember the tiniest details the same way, or would you even agree on what was “tiny” and what was “major”? Then what lessons did you carry away from those “common” experiences? And, how have they affected your psyche and outlook on life?

What you inherited, and what you have learned by formal schooling, street smarts, relationships, how it was taught and by who, your personal observations, and even where you learned it—it all works toward assuring your uniqueness.

OK. We’re both unique. So what?

Well, hang onto that thought while I tell you a bit about your creator YHVH.

“YHVH” is the Hebrew word that translates as “LORD”. This name is found more often in the Old Testament than any other name for God (approximately 7,000 times). The title is also referred to as the “Tetragrammaton,” meaning the “The Four Letters”. YHVH comes from the Hebrew verb “to be” and is the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM;’ and He said, ‘thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you… this is My eternal name, and this is how I am to be recalled for all generations’”. [Exodus 3:13-14]. Therefore, YHVH declares God’s absolute being; and the source of everything—without beginning and without end.1

Now, let’s back-up for just a moment; and look at the very first name for God that we find in the Bible: “Elohim”. It is used about 2,300 times in the Old Testament and its first occurrence is in Genesis 1:1—the very first verse of the Bible. Elohim means, “all powerful”; and its form is, plural! Important? Oh, yeah! Originally a mystery, its meaning is slowly revealed throughout the rest of the Bible. While we worship the one true God, we (now) know our God is a triune God—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It’s a bit difficult to wrap your mind around. It helps me to think of God as the spirit He is, with three different personas. Each of which can operate separately yet stay unified with the whole.

OK. I’m sorry if your head is spinning. I know it’s a lot for some of you to take in. Here is a quick summary of the critical points:

Our God has many names and each name tells us more about Him. The two names we have just talked about, tell us a great deal about God; starting with—our God is not a created being. He is an absolute being. He truly exists. And more than that…

He is an eternal being, or Spirit—without beginning or end.

Our One God has three personas—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit).

God is all powerful and the author of creation. The entire universe was set into existence by the spoken words of God. And that includes every living thing on planet Earth—including you and me. Mankind was created on the sixth day2 and created in the image of God.3

So just what is my point?

Well first, I have a question for you. Who are you?

Based on the above, you might reply that like me, you are a child of God.

And, while that would be a correct answer on one level, it may not be totally correct. You see, far… far… back in our lineage we have a set of grand-parents named Adam and Eve. That’s right. The first man and woman created by God. They knew God intimately. In fact, they physically walked and talked with God on their strolls through the Garden of Eden. They lived in a paradise with no rules—but one. They were instructed by God not to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. It was called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And God told them that if they did eat of it, they would surely die.

The short version of this story is that Satan, a fallen angel, deceived Eve by telling her if she ate the fruit, she wouldn’t die4. Rather, she would be like God, …knowing good from evil. Eve ate some of the fruit and then convinced Adam to also eat the fruit. And things changed—BIG TIME. Eve and Adam knew they should not go against the only rule God had given them, but they did it anyway, …and that is known as “sin”. Our grandparents, using their freewill intentionally disobeyed God and introduced sin into what had been a perfect environment. And their original sin has infected every man and woman born, or yet to be born, with a sinful nature5. It blocks our communication with God and condemns us to death and eternity in Hell. In fact, sin infected the whole physical planet; and caused God to withdraw to heaven.6

That’s It?

Oh, NO! Time passes. (And God had devised a great—an almost too incredible to believable, plan.) Out of God’s great love for His children, He devised a plan of grace7 that would blot out mankind’s sins for all time; provide for redemption, and restore us to God’s family for eternity. Many prophets (in the old testament) alluded to the plan. Some quite specifically, in retrospect.

Then, in about 5 BC, God implemented His plan. (If you get nothing else out of this post, read and consider the next two paragraphs. GET THIS!)

Out of Gods grace, He sends the Holy spirit to visit His children. The Holy Spirit looks into our hearts, and works to convict us of our sins and our inability to “fix ourselves”. Yes, we are all sinners, and we will be until we die, or are called home. No man or woman is perfect. It is impossible to live on this broken planet without sinning. Big sins, little sins, or both. (As we tend to think of them. Actually, to God there is no distinction. Sin is sin.) And, while God makes no distinction of sins, there is a distinction of sinners: Forgiven and Unforgiven.

None of us know the exact time of our earthly death. And in the meantime, the Holy Spirit is whispering, sometimes shouting.8 Trying to get our attention, fighting our freewill, convicting us to believe that God is God. That He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to be born of a virgin; to live a perfect life performing miracles and healing the wounds and hearts of broken people; and then to be sacrificed on a Roman cross—carrying the sins of every person who has, and ever will, repent of their sins, from a contrite heart, and ask for forgiveness while declaring Jesus as their Lord and savior. And then He arose from his grave three days later, thus fulfilling prophecies from both the old and new testaments; not only proving His Deity, but, also giving us the promise of a new (eternal) life as a Christian, following his plan for our unique gifts. And, it is free!

And, I actually have three points to make…

First: God offers us his plan at no cost. All of this, …for only believing and asking, …bestowed through the grace of God’s great love for His creation, …YOU and ME. But remember, God is not “only” a God of Love and Grace. He is also a “Just” God. He will never force you to do anything against your will. Your eternal destination is 100 percent your choice. And choosing not to make a decision, or saying “not yet” is the same as saying, “No.” God does not want to send anyone to hell.9 In fact He grieves over every lost soul that is sent there. Never-the-less, He will send you where you choose, and you MUST choose before you die.

My second point is: While it is a given that every one on earth is a sinner; there are those of us who have asked for, and received, salvation, redemption and restoration to God’s family. We are living new lives patterned after Christ’s example, and have a personal relationship with Him that assures we will spend eternity in Heaven with our triune God.

My Third point is: If you recognize that you are a sinner, and know that you cannot save yourself, the Holy Spirit is talking to you and leading you to take action and become a Christian by repenting (confessing) your sins to Jesus and asking his forgiveness. Tell Jesus that you want to become a follower (which is what a Christian is—a follower of Christ). Tell Jesus you love Him and are ready to begin the new life He has planned for you.

It is truly that simple. Yet, for many it is too difficult.

When you do establish this relationship something truly incredible will happen. The Holy Spirit will move into your heart to act as your guide and interpreter. Really! And never forget this scripture:

And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. [Romans 8:27-28. NLT]

My Prayer:

Yaweh (I AM),

Scientists tell us the universe was formed 13.8 billion years ago, when a tiny singularity (or vacuum fluctuation) containing (what we now call) the universe, and energy (known as a scalar field) suddenly appeared in space—out of nothing at all. The energy field in this singularity acted as “antigravity” inflating the bubble instantaneously to the size of a grapefruit. By this point the antigravity was converted to heat energy which kept expanding (at a more sedate speed) due to the push of the inflation. This is now referred to as the “Big Bang”.

I prefer the description of creation presented in the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” [Genesis 1:1] And I see no conflict with the science. Now we know where the singularity came from and what triggered it—while providing the design, rules, matter and energy for the creation. Thank you, God!

Scientists tell us the earth is 4.5 billion years old. And mankind may be 50,000 years old. The Bible tells us you created Adam and Eve; but again, doesn’t tell us when. I do believe you created them. And would, if for no other reason than they are the most unique part of all creation. You created them in your image, and you gave them life!

Neither do we know when Satan seduced Eve into doing what she knew to be wrong—and, the same for Adam. Nor, do we know exactly how long it was before you chose Moses to lead your people out of enslavement in Egypt. But we do know the first book of the Torah (also the first book of the Christian Bible) was written about 1450 BC, by Moses.

Your Words, recorded in the 66 books of the Bible over that next millennium and a half, give me all the knowledge and instruction I need to know about you, the One True God. I know you love your entire creation—most especially, mankind.

40 Years ago, you chose me a second time; when I was as undeserving as I could ever be. You picked me up, dusted me off and led me into a new life. The path you set me on led to the perfect wife and life partner. Together, we have been blessed beyond measure. And now, we look forward to what you still have in store for us as we move forward loving God, following Jesus, and striving to love others as we love ourselves.

I know I am not perfect in my walk; never-the-less, your love, grace, and guidance, endure. I thank you, and praise you for your never ending love.

Your loving servant,

Larry


1. Although some pronounce YHVH as “Jehovah” or “Yaweh,” scholars really don’t know the proper pronunciation because the ancient Hebrew alphabet had no vowels. For pronunciation purposes due to the absence of vowels in the Tetragrammaton, Bible scholars have chosen to spell it either Yaweh, or sometimes, Yahweh.

2.There is much debate about the Creation of the universe. Some say in a great explosion of a singularity formed the universe.. Some say God started the process and the universe evolved over billions of years. Still others say; six days. And while almost all religions have a story of the creation, only the Bible postulates that one supreme God created the earth out of his great love; and gave mankind a special place in it. How long it took is unknown. The Bible does not say how long it took. Some take the term “day” to be a literal 24 day period. Others say the word “day” represents an indefinite period of time (even millions or billions of years).

3. What does it mean when the bible says that man was created in God’s image? Obviously, this is another occasion when God was not being totally literal. God is a Spirit. God can assume the form of man. What God did was create men and women as unique beings capable of communicating with him. No other part of creation can claim that incredible capability.

4. Satan was doing what he does best, …lying. And, using God’s children as a tool to attack God.

5. Except for Jesus Christ.

6. God is Holy and cannot abide the presence of sin.

7. Grace: unmerited favor. i.e. We didn’t earn it, nor do we deserve it. It is free for believing and asking from a broken and contrite heart. God also gave mankind freewill and the ability to reflect his (God’s) character in our love, patience, forgiveness, kindness, and faithfulness.

8. You will not lose your freewill. God loves His creation and does not want robots who have no choice but to obey. At the same time it means you will never be perfect while on earth.

9. God created hell for Satan and his followers. While I cannot imagine exactly what hell is like, I can tell you that it is a place you DO Not want to be. I know it is totally devoid of God and any good thing. If you think life on earth can be difficult, try to imagine a place where there is no love, no kindness, no charity, no understanding, no truth, no mercy, no help of any kind, no music, no laughter. There will be constant pain and sorrow. And more filth.

 

 

 

 

 

You Aren’t Perfect!

…“no eye has seen, no ear has heard, 

and no mind has imagined

what God has prepared

for those who love him.” [1 Cor 2:9. NLT]i

No, you are not perfect, …but then, neither am I, nor is anyone else. And, I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know. Oh, we can get pretty “full of ourselves,” every now and then; but, it doesn’t last. Sooner or later you’re going to get a reminder, in one form or another, that you’re still capable of sinning and really, no better than any other sinner. You may even feel that you are unworthy of what Christ has done for you. Guess what…

No human on planet earth is worthy of what Christ has done for us, and what He stands ready to keep doing for usor any unsaved person! God’s grace through our faith in Him, His Son and the Holy Spirit, secures (or will secure) our salvation, redemption, restoration, and promise of eternal life.

Now, let’s paraphrase 1 Cor 2:9. “…my eye has not seen, my ear has not heard, and my finite mind cannot imagine what God has prepared for me.” Notice I stopped a bit “short”. I want to stress that we are talking about what God has “prepared” for us. There is no mistake about that. And, believe it or not, it has a name. It’s called, “Perfection”. And, perfection has three stages.

First: When we became a Christian, we entered an eternal union with Christwho is perfect. We were declared not guilty, and thus righteous (Holy) because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This perfected union is absolute and unchangeable, and guarantees that one day we will be “completely perfect.” See above and Hebrews 10:10.

Second: We can grow and mature in our walk, as we continue to trust Christ; draw closer to Him; learn more about Him; and obey Him. Our progress is changeable because it depends on us, and… we are not perfect. (More about this in “Final notes”). Regardless, we do mature over time; and we are growing toward perfection as we “press on”.

Third: When Christ returns to take us into His eternal kingdom, we will be glorified and made completely perfectand that includes our bodies. See Philippians 3:20-21.

Final notes: Perfection is grounded in faith in Jesus Christ! We cannot perfect ourselves. It is, simply, …not. possible. How many times have you tried to correct what you know to be a flaw in your character, …and failed. You get “down” on yourself and unhappy. STOP IT! Christianity is not about what we can do, or should do, for Christ. IT IS ABOUT WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE FOR USAND IS DOING IN US.

When we trust God for everything, and allow Christ to work in us and through us, we will be living in true Christian freedom and joy. The work (and the joy) will continue until the day He returns or calls us home. See Philippians 3:1-15.

Father,

Again, I find myself thanking you; and praising you for your gifts of salvation, restoration, and eternal life. The cost was unthinkable, and yet, Jesus chose the cross―and us. Thus, we find ourselves with a deceptively “simple” way of becoming righteous in your eyes. And, even the worst of us can choose to believe in you, your son Jesus, and The Holy Spirit. Then through that simple act of faithand declaring it in prayer to Jesus, by asking Him to be our eternal Savior and Lordwe are welcomed into your family; and, our future is secured.

But, Abba, while living on earth, I’ve learned that “simple” does not necessarily mean “easy”. And, somehow, we can take what should be “easy” and “simple” and make it horribly complicated. I know it’s tied up in concepts like faith, belief, religion; and exposure to a culture that is 180 degrees out of sync with our future Home in your Kingdom.

So, as your Son and the Holy Spirit continue to work, perfecting me in my time here on earth; I ask that you help me see with kingdom eyes and hear with kingdom ears. Abba, I want to make myself malleable, pliant, open and compliant to their work. Help me to subordinate my will, my planning, and my pride. I have read Jer. 29:11; and I really, really, want to cooperate, for I know you have a wonderful future in store for me.

Thank you, Abba. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Avery Goodday

i Scripture quotations marked [NLT] are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Christian! (part 2)

I’m glad you’re back.  I did promise a possible solution to this apparent “hypocrisy” dilemma; so let’s get right to it.

First, let me point out that we will always be somewhat susceptible to the Hypocrite label.  Why.  Because we are not perfect … nor will we ever be – this side of heaven.  But, (and this is a very big “BUT”) we cannot hide behind the, “…I’m not perfect, just forgiven” mentality.  While it may be true on one level, it is a “cop-out” on another.  And believe me – God, who sees into your heart, will know the difference. 

Second, we must not let Satan sucker us into playing his games (often under the guise of religion).  We simply must not play by Satan’s rules. Christianity is not about never breaking a moral law or committing a sin; let alone breaking the rules or laws of a particular church or denomination.  It certainly isn’t about projecting the false image of living a perfect life – or, having a “holier than thou” attitude.  Nor is it about your “goodie vs baddie” ratio.  In fact those are all ways that Satan keeps you in bondage – and miserable! 

We must get our answers from God’s Word.  Let’s review the homework. John 14:6-7:  “…I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.  If you had known who I am, then you would have known who my Father is.  From now on you know him and have seen him!” (NLT)

The first two sentences tell us that there is only one way to God; and that’s through Jesus.  It sounds restrictive when you first hear it. (It’s another frequent excuse non-believers use in their argument against Christianity.)  But, think about it.  First, if God is truly God – the creator of time and the universe – and He is; then He is the only one who can determine what is right and wrong, i.e. what is true.

Jesus is the Son of God, and to know Him is to Know God.  And to know God is to know the truth.  About that “restrictive” concern; it is our choice as to belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  And this is very important…. Everyone who genuinely believes the above and asks Jesus to forgive their sins, repents of their sins, and allows Jesus to become the Lord of their life, will receive not only forgiveness, but also eternal life in the presence of God.  Everyone, anyone! Those who don’t … won’t.  Like I said, “choice”.  Yes or no. Take it or leave it.  And, don’t blame God!

If you could live a perfect life (which you cannot, thanks in part to Adam and Eve) there would have been no reason for God to have sent His son Jesus, to earth to die a horrendous death on the cross.  But we can’t live a perfect life and so He did send Jesus to die in our stead.  A God who loves us, His creation, this much is certainly worthy of our love in return.  (Note the sneaky lead-in to the second part of the homework.)

Mark 12:29-31:  “…The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel!  The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’  The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (NLT)

O.K. That’s about as straight forward as it gets.  The two most important things we are commanded to do.  Love God, Love others.  Did you notice?  You did not see anything there about sin or works, per se. But, where do these two commandments fall on our “To Do” lists? And, how do we (those of us calling ourselves, Christian) follow these commandments? 

Let’s start with loving God.  How much time do we spend worshiping God and praising Him simply for who He is and what He has done – and is doing?  For some, that’s maybe, about an hour a week at church.  And even then, part of the time (usually during the sermon) we end up thinking about something else entirely.  Do you wake up in the morning, thinking about your work, your schedule, your problems, lunch, golf game, etc; and dreading another day of the “same old, same old”?  Oh yes, I’ve done that! And, shame on me!  God truly deserves our best, and we give Him … what?

We need to address that.  Try starting your Day off with God.  Even if it’s only a few minutes at first.  Five minutes praising God, and talking to Jesus about what’s on your mind is likely to work wonders for you over time.  Think of Him as your adviser and consultant. Then, be open to increasing you personal time with God.  You’ll want to, when you see how it works.

You are likely to also become more aware of situations in which you will have the opportunity to ‘stand your ground’ for your belief.  Do it! And, thank God every time it happens.  You will be making a difference and people will be noticing.  That’s a good thing.

Now, the part you knew was coming.  What about that “love your neighbor” thing?  Well, apparently for most of us, we’re not doing very well in that area, either.

Maybe it would help if we asked God to give us Kingdom Eyes.  What does that mean?  Simply this: we need to fully recognize that we are all God’s creation – and as such, we are all equally valuable to God. Additionally, we are all – every last one of us, from Adam to ? – created in God’s image.  Yet we all have differences.  We are unique, all 6 billion +/- of us, on the planet right now.  No one else has your exact genetic make-up.  There is no one else with your personality and psychological profile. Your exact talents and interests, to the same degree.  Nope, … all unique.

And, boy, have we ever gotten good at identifying those differences; and then classifying others according to some set of measures we – not God – have come up with.  (Would you care to guess how our measures will align with God’s?)  We need to think about that, whenever we find ourselves devaluing or running someone down – even if it is “only” in our mind.  To God, every life is precious beyond measure.  Every one has value.  It is our job as Christians to recognize that, reinforce that, and treat them the way we want to be treated.

Love God. Love your neighbors.  The operative word is “LOVE”.  But again, it is our choice.  In 1 Cor 13:1-3, it tells us that love is critical to our faith, and thus, all that we do as Christians. Understand also, if you choose love, it will come at a cost – effort, time, and yes, money.  So, just what is God worth to you?

Here’s something that wasn’t in your homework – but, it is something we can all work on – for the rest of our days here on planet Earth. Think of it as a blueprint or road map. 

Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.  It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  Love will last forever….” 1Cor 13:4-8 (NLT)

Ultimately, we must make love the focus of our life.  Jesus has unequivocally told us it is the thing on which we should focus.  If we do, the rest should pretty well take care of itself.

Finally, we will all fail at some levels, some times.  That is NOT an excuse for not trying.  So, here are a couple of things I’ve learned over more years than I care to think about.  I hope they help.

After spending 14 years in the military, I had this “little” problem of swearing and using profane language.  I wanted to break the habit, and no matter how hard I tried, I was very lucky to make a day, let alone two, without a “slip-up”.  Somewhere I read, or heard, what turned out to be excellent advice.  When you use inappropriate language (and, swearing and profanity are never appropriate) you need to immediately stop, and apologize, before saying another word. Example:  “Excuse me.  I apologize for (swearing” or “using that language).  It was inappropriate, rude, and it doesn’t represent my values.”

Each time, I also apologized to God, asked his forgiveness, and renewed my promise to keep working on the problem … with His help.  Doing that a “few” times, gets your attention, and focuses your efforts. What it never did was get me ridiculed or “made light of”.  In fact I, had several positive comments, some were in private, which gave me a small opening to say that I was, “…in the process of developing my relationship with God,” and let it go at that.  If they had other questions or comments, the conversation continued.

Whenever you “screw-up” do not cover-up, make excuses, or try to lay-off the blame.  Be transparent.  Again remember, we are not perfect. Admit the misdeed, error, whatever.  Remember there are usually consequences to our actions.  You earned ’em, accept ’em; and, with God’s help, make every effort to assure you learn from the situation.

Finally, when you mess-up, always take it to Jesus.  Yes, He already knows all about it.  But you really need to talk to Him.  Admit your mistake, ask for forgiveness, and then ask for help in turning your back on that behavior.  (That’s what the word “repent” means, “…to turn your back on….)” You will grow in Christ.  God will grow your love and change you in ways you can’t change yourself.  And, because God knows you far better than you know yourself, and loves you beyond your wildest dreams, you will gain faith, peace and joy beyond your imagination. 

It’s just how our God works.

Avery Goodday

What Is This Thing Called “Faith” (Part 3)

Welcome to Part Three.  On 03/22/12, I made the point that, “…If Jesus (a), was not the Son of God; (b), did not die on the cross; and (c), did not come back to life; there is no basis for my Faith; and indeed, Christianity would then be a total fabrication”.  We also looked at some of the evidence that Jesus was truly “The Son of God. Then, on 03/29/12, we looked at some of the evidence that Jesus did actually die on the cross.  And, now the final installment…

3. The most critical question.  Did Jesus really rise from His grave on the third day?

  • Jesus was taken down from the cross late on the 1st day.  He was placed in a tomb carved out of rock.  The tomb was closed with a bolder and had a seal placed across it.  Guards were then placed at the tomb to assure that no one could remove the body. The absolute last thing the priests (or Pilate) wanted, was for Jesus’ body to come up “missing”.  After all, they knew the prophesies from the sacred texts – what we call the Old Testament – and, those made by Jesus.  They weren’t about to let it happen! If there was no resurrection, then Jesus was a phony and all these trouble-makers would either go away – or be dealt with in a more permanent …and satisfying, way.

  • Jesus body lay in the tomb the 2nd day.  (Approximately 36 hours, actually.)  The guards were posted outside.  Some may be thinking, “…but, if He wasn’t really dead, He could have recovered during this time.”  To which I have to respond. “Get real.”  Crucifixion was an almost unimaginably horrific death.  NO ONE SURVIVED.  That said, just for the sake of argument, let’s say somehow, there was a bit of life left in Jesus when He was put into the tomb.  Do you honestly think He could recover… alone, in a tomb, brutalized, extreme shock, a limited air supply, collapsed lungs, massive blood loss, a spear wound to the area around His heart, and in general, massive trauma? Impossible!

  • On the 3rd day (as prophesied) the tomb was found empty.  Where were the guards?  I’m not sure. I hope they “got away”.  After all, their lives would have been forfeit for failing in their duty.  But, for this particular failure?  I suspect Pilate and the temple priests would likely have had them crucified.  And, they knew it. I’m sure they would have been given very specific instructions about guarding the tomb – and told to be especially watchful on the 3rd day.  Yet, the unthinkable happened… The seal broken, the tomb opened, and the body …gone!

  • Could the priests or Pilate have removed the body?  It’s a thought.  And, if they did, having the body would have been good enough to put an end to Christianity right then and there.  So, if they could have produced the body, they surely would have. They had everything to gain.  Obviously, they didn’t have the body. 

  • Did the disciples mount a “special ops raid” to over-power the best trained soldiers on the planet, unseal the tomb, and steal the body? Not hardly.  To what purpose? Remember they thought He was dead. Having the body of Jesus would have done them no good at all.  Jesus Himself prophesied that He would arise from His Grave.  So, having the body would have been only a huge problem for them.  The best they could have done would have been to disappear it.  And how could they have successfully done that? No, in reality, we are told the disciples were hiding and scared witless that they were next in line to be captured, tortured and killed.

  • That’s not the end of it, however.  The “body” did turn-up.  Except of course,  it wasn’t a corpse.  Jesus was alive!  He spent another 40 days on earth.  During this time Christ appeared to individuals or small gatherings on 10 different occasions.  Once, He appeared to a throng of 500 believers. Some appearances were close to Jerusalem others were as far away as Galilee.  He talked to groups and individuals.  He performed various acts.  The appearances occurred in the morning, during the day and at night – indoors and outside.  Tricks and/or hallucinations cannot account for this – there were too many different settings and too many people who were too different in psychological make-up.

  • Nor was it a made-up scam.  Again, too many people saw Christ.  But consider this also, no one ever recanted their eye-witness testimony. Only one of the disciples died a natural death.  All, the others (except Judas, who committed suicide) suffered torture and/or death for their teaching and preaching.  Hundreds of Christians who had witnessed Jesus’ miracles with their own eyes, were tortured and killed.  Surely, if they were playing roles in some great fiction, someone would have recanted rather than suffering for something they knew to be a charade.  But, that’s exactly what did NOT happen.  These early Christians had seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears.  Others had first hand accounts from those who had witnessed the events.  They KNEW Jesus was the Son of God, the resurrected Christ and their Redeemer.  They “believed” and they were willing to pay any price for their belief… and a great many did.

So, yes, my belief in Christ has a definite faith component.  And, I also think there is a great deal of evidence to support both. 

But, here is another point I’d like to make.  I haven’t always been a Christian.  In fact, I was a serious “doubter”.  But, after accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior, giving Him my sin, and my life; I have changed.  I have changed in ways I could never have changed on my own.  I know this because I tried to do it on my own… more times than I care to recall.

Today my life is still far from perfect, but it’s so much better than it was; and, where it was headed.  I’m still alive for starters.   And, I’m also confident my life will get still better as I continue my walk with God.

So, is Christianity a “Faith”?  Not really.  Rather, allow me to answer the question this way. 

Christianity is “Belief”.  At some point, we (Christians), out of belief that Jesus is our only hope for true redemption with God our Creator, have submitted ourselves to Him (Jesus).  We have taken our sins and nailed them to the cross with Jesus.  We have asked for forgiveness, and help in developing a personal relationship with Him.  We are saved from our sins into God’s family by God’s grace, and only by God’s Grace.  Through His mercy he offers us the Holy Spirit and faith. Then, the closer we walk with Him, the stronger our faith becomes. 

Have a Very Happy Easter. 

And remember, it truly is all about Christ and what He offers each and every one of us.  It makes no difference who we are; who our parents were; what color we are; what nation we are from; what church we go to; how much power we have …or how little; how much wealth we have …or how little;  how many charities we support with our money, or with our time; how good we are, or aren’t.  It all makes no difference!  We do, however, all share two common traits.  All of us are His creation; and, we are all eternal beings.  The day will come when we will stand before the one true God who created the Universe.  On that day we will enter either into God’s Kingdom or into eternal separation from God, aka hell.  We won’t be asked to decide.  We will have already decided!  The only way into God’s Kingdom is if we individually, are covered in the righteousness of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  It is the only way, and it is available to everyone anyoneIt’s free.  You can’t buy it.  You can’t earn it.  It as simple as believing, and asking

Avery

What Is This Thing Called “Faith”

Note: This weeks blog was originally written as a single posting.  But, it just kept growing… and growing.  I decided to break it into three parts.  Part two …next week.  Part three will be the week following.

The Sunday School Teacher was in “deep water”.  She was trying to teach the concept of faith to her 4th graders. She turned to Billy and asked, “Billy, what do you think faith is?”

Billy thought for a moment, and answered, “I guess faith is believing in something that isn’t true.”

I smiled when I heard that story;  and then I started thinking.  I decided a lot of adults would agree with Billy.  But, they would be wrong.  If we have faith in something we know not to be true, then we are (at best) deluding ourselves; and may (in extreme cases) need psychiatric help.  That is most certainly, not faith.

I looked “faith” up in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary and found: “…belief and trust in and loyalty to God”; and, “…firm belief in something for which there is no proof.”

I’ve also heard it said, “…faith is believing without proof.  If you have proof, you don’t need faith.”

I agree with those statements; but, at the same time, I don’t think God wants or expects us to simply switch off our brains in matters involving our faith.  (I’ll admit that there have been a few times when I wished I could; but, I’m simply not wired that way.)  And, really, I don’t want to be.  For instance, there are many false doctrines floating around in our culture.  It is, therefore, important that I (with God’s help) be able to distinguish God’s truth from Satan’s lies.

And while there are times it would be easier to just accept something on “faith” …I can’t.  No, I will go looking for the facts, the evidence, the logic.  I have this need to understand things on an intellectual level.  At least as far as I can take it.  And, this raises an interesting question:  is the term “fact based faith” an oxymoron?  I’m sure some would say, “Yes!”  Yet, I think not.

How about evidence that does not meet the standard of “positive” proof, but is, none-the-less, germane to the question?  What we refer to as circumstantial evidence.  After all, many a defendant has been found guilty (or innocent) based “…on a preponderance of circumstantial evidence”.

I’m a Christian.  Christianity is a faith based religion.  So, let’s just get down to the ‘nitty-gritty’.  If Jesus was not the Son of God; did not die on the cross; and did not come back to life; then, there is no basis for my Faith.  Indeed, Christianity would then be a total fabrication. 

A great many books have been written on these very events.  What can I add?  Nothing.  I’m just simply going to point out, what – to me – is the most significant evidence for the truthfulness of these events.

1. Was Jesus the Son of God?  There is a great deal of evidence both from the Bible and other documents, that Jesus existed.  But, anyone, could claim to be God (or the Son of God).  If I chose to say I was God, what evidence could I produce to prove my claim? Whatever it would be, I assure you, it would take no time at all to prove my claim totally false. 

  • Yet, Jesus’ life coincided perfectly with His claim.  He never committed a sin.  All who knew Him knew what sin was, yet none ever accused, or even hinted at the tiniest possibility of even the least appearance of a sin, on His part.  (O.K., The Pharisees and the Sadducees were constantly accusing Jesus of sin – by healing on the Sabbath, or some such.  But, Jesus always showed them the error [and hypocrisy] of their thinking).

  • Jesus’ personality and knowledge were not those of any other man.  He exhibited unconditional (and unparalleled) love for all.  In his teachings He turned human thought upside down.  He showed how those who thought themselves wise were foolish, and how the poor were rich beyond measure.

  • Jesus controlled the forces of nature with His voice.  And, he brought two people back to life.  (Yes, they were really dead.  Even 2,000 years ago people knew what death looked like – and smelled like). 

  • Jesus healed many people of disease, blindness, lameness, hemorrhaging, and other physical ailments. 

  • And, no one disputed any of this.  He frequently did these things in front of huge groups of witnesses.  There were many people (the temple priests, especially) who desperately wanted to prove Jesus a fraud.  Yet, He performed these miracles over approximately three years, and in all that time not one witness rose up to say, “Hey Jesus, you know that leper you healed two years ago over in Galilee; well, his leprosy is back.”  Nope.  Never happened.  Literally thousands of witnesses to these events – no denials.

And that, friends, is where I’ll stop for this week.  We’ll consider the evidence concerning Jesus’ death on the Cross, next week; the week following that we’ll look at some of the evidence for the Resurrection and, have a brief wrap up.  Thank you for your support and kind words. 

Avery