Friday, November 14, 2014

Thoughts on Troubles and Timing

After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For not even His brothers were believing in Him.So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune.The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee.
10 But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret.

Jesus had become popular. Because of his “signs,” he had developed a following. This passage talks about an interaction with his flesh and blood brothers.

It tells us “the Jews were seeking to kill Him.” Not everyone was amazed by the healings he did. He had enemies. Life was not without it’s concerns. I find the Christian life to be that way. There are worries. Concerns. Problems. Troubles. I’ve never had a group of people seeking to kill me. That has to be intense. “What if the Jews send people after me?” we might think. “How can I ever go back there again?” I have a friend in India who was beaten by a group of men opposing his Christian faith. It was nasty. Those men would stand outside near his house in the days following. An intimidation factor when he walked out the door. How do you remain calm in the face of people who really do not like you, and want to harm you?

If he was really somebody special his brothers wanted him to go to the Festival and prove it. “Show yourself to the world,” they said.

The story goes on that “not even his brothers were believing in Him.” His own flesh and blood did not believe in him. Due to our own fault or our families misunderstanding of us, it’s painful to have those close to us not believe in us. So Jesus life was not a bed of roses.

In verse 6 Jesus says, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune.” He indicates he will not go up to the festival.

This shows there is such a thing as the timing of God. Can it be that God has timing in the events and relationships of our life? Jesus was subject to an internal commitment to God’s timing. As for his unbelieving brothers, he said “you can do what you want, when you want.” But He chose God’s timing.
He did go to the festival. When He sensed it was God’s timing.

So two lessons here for us who are Christians. One, things may not be going well. We may have enemies and doubters. Don’t give up. Secondly, seek to be aware of God’s timing in matters. Ask Him about it. There might be a good reason for waiting, - or for doing something urgently.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Sun is Really Bright Today!

“There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” John 1:9

Here the Gospel writer John calls Jesus Christ “the true light.” That would be the real deal. The true light. The light that makes the other lights seem minor or insignificant.

On a sidewalk in Annville, PA recently,  I thought the sun is the true light of this physical world. It is the one light we absolutely could not do without. The Earth needs to bathe in its light 24/7.

Many lights, - tail lights, a flashlight, a neon sign, help us in various ways. They offer us warnings, convey information, guide us, and make life convenient. We can and often do live without some of these. They are relatively minor lights that are made possible by the true light of the sun. It is the source.

So John calls Jesus “the true light.” The true light came into the world. The Light of God. The moral light. The example. The pattern. The true Illuminator.

 That light “enlightens every man.” He makes it possible for us to see. Just as the sun enables vision, so His inner light enables us to see reality. By it we can discern what is right. Every man and woman has received this light, to some degree. That’s what John says.

Every culture has some norms of what is acceptable and what is not. There are some norms of decency acceptable in every nation or tribe. They don’t all agree, but they do exist. C.S. Lewis wrote, “The moralities accepted among men may differ, though not, at bottom, so widely as is often claimed…”[1] There is not an inhabited place on earth that does not have some acceptable standard or some concept of what is good and what is not good. This can be referred to as moral “light.” This is the light that Jesus, “the true light” has enlightened us with.
Just as the sun has enlightened all of us, so the true light, Jesus, has shined in our hearts and we have some vision. He is the one moral light we cannot do without.

John goes on to say, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…” (John 1:12) Receive the full light of Jesus today. Believe in Him! The Sun is really bright today!

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain,(New York: MacMillan Publishing Co, 1962)  21-22

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Meeting of the Minds?

Last Saturday I was helping to teach an English class along with a friend of mine. Although there are 40 or 50 students divided into four classes, our class had only two women in it. They were both Hindus from Nepal. One married and one single. 

We were two Christian men from the United States, one single and the other married.

One of the exercises to stretch them in their English ability was to answer the following question. “What are five of the most important decisions you will make in your life?”

We began by throwing out ideas and making one master list of the responses.

The married lady chimed in the first response, “Tell the truth.” This was followed quickly by, “Be peaceful.” The younger single girl who is interested in citizenship in the United States then said, “Be loyal to your new country” and “Be disciplined.”  This was good stuff. But I must say, it wasn’t what I expected. They were talking about values and morals. I counted those as things foundational to making the bigger decisions.

The single guy and I began to make our suggestions. “What career you will choose.”

“Who you will marry.”

To this the married Nepali lady said, “That only applies to you, I am already married,” as if outside of her experience the question didn’t really matter.

“If you should get married,” the single American man chimed in.

“How many children you should have,” I said to blank stares.

We two American Christians were talking about major events, - not values. I started to see how different our two sets of worldviews were. What I counted as important wasn’t necessarily to them.

The topic turned to religion.

“Do not believe in superstition, that the old people are believing,” said the single girl. She used the illustration of a black cat crossing your path.

The married lady said, “Pray to God. All gods are the same, names different but one god.”

Feeling the need to speak up for my faith, I said, “For me as a Christian, having a relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important decision I can make in my life.”

Both the ladies smiled and said, “Yes, you’re a Christian.” They laughed as if to say, “We knew that was coming.” The married one repeated, “Many names but the same God.” The single man tried to explain that there is only one God and He is Jesus, but somehow that got waylaid and didn’t go anywhere.

After making a list of 17 items, we decided to vote. Each one of us voted for five. Then we listed the five with the most votes. This is our list. (Not listed in order of importance, just the highest vote getters.)

The five most important decisions a person can make in their lifetime:

- Tell the truth (3 votes)
- Respect everyone (3 votes) 
- Who you will marry (3 votes)
- What you believe. Your worldview. (3 votes)

- To follow Jesus Christ. (2 votes J)

I think the young single girl who was dead set against superstition ended up agreeing that what we believe is an important decision.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Making Something Original

I recently noticed a Bible verse that is momentous and yet so simply put.

“The sea is his, for he made it; for his hands formed the dry land.”[1]

God made the sea.

It’s that simple. No drum roll, no Bruno Mars halftime show.

How do you or I make something that has never been? We get the raw materials, like a pencil and paper, and we begin to “make” a picture. What we draw, even if it’s just a scribble, has been done before. It will be based on what already exists. When God made the sea, it was something that didn’t exist previously. There was no picture or blueprint.

The sea was an original. God conceived it in His mind and made it. He saw it, thought it, or whatever, but the sea in all its massive systems, complex chemical makeup, and enormous volume, he made.

The Bible records, “And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.”[2] What was water? What was dry land? There had never been such a thing. God invented something original.

Try to picture a new color.

Do you have that in your mind?

We can’t! There is a fixed range and we cannot conceive of anything not on the spectrum. I cannot draw something that has never been known by man. Everything I came up with would be based on something already made. We live in that reality.

But in the beginning, God made stuff that was original and had no precedent.
“His hands formed the dry land.” I can see his hands scooping out the sea beds and pulling the earth into piles that became continents. I can see him pulling up the Andes and the Himalayas with his fingers, and pressing a thumb to make the Great Lakes. It’s almost as if he had fun with it? Imagine that, God having fun? God smiling. God being nice. Hmmm, there’s a thought for you.

He first made the stuff, then he formed it. Most of the earth is ocean. That was okay with God. Even the land he made is not all habitable. Why are there desolate, uninhabitable stretches? Because that’s what his mind conceived. That is what He did. “And God saw that it was good.”[3]

Apollo Astronaut Eugene Cernan, viewing the Earth from space, said, “… there you are, the earth, dynamic, overwhelming, and I felt that there was just too much purpose, too much logic, it was just too beautiful to have happened by accident. There has to be someone bigger than you and bigger than me, and I mean this in a spiritual sense, I’m not religious, but there has to be a Creator of the universe…” [4]

A God that can create like that, - wow!

 I think He can envision and create a positive path for your life.

Look to the Son!

[1] Psalm 95:5 Revised Standard Bible
[2] Genesis 1:9 Revised Standard Bible
[3] Genesis 1:10 (RSV)
[4] “In the Shadow of the Moon,” 2007, a film by Ron Howard

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Lesson About Money

“And he called the twelve together ... and sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.” Luke 9:1-3 

“Please stand up if you want to relinquish your rights to reputation, your own plans, your finances, or anything else for the sake of serving Christ.” I felt an inner longing to literally give up my right to “my” money. If I was without money, could Christ meet my needs? Where I was at spiritually that evening in 1975 in Kona, Hawaii, the answer was a burning “yes!” I stood to my feet as Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With A Mission (or YWAM), prayed for all of us.

I’d moved to Hawaii a few weeks earlier. Looking for a job, and a church in which to practice my new found faith, I had met people from YWAM, and was in their School of Evangelism now, along with about 80 others. I had paid for my expenses at YWAM and had some money in the bank that I’d saved.

I had never been without money. My family was not rich, we were blue collar folks from a small town in Idaho. But I always had some money. Now, I was burning with excitement to trust God even if I had no money.

When Loren asked who still owed money for the school, hands shot up. One guy named Mike said, “I still owe $800.”

My heart leapt. I felt an impression to meet that need. If I gave Mike $800, I’d be down to zero, and I’d see if Jesus really could do what he’d said. But $800 was an unheard of amount for me to give! More so in 1975 when a gallon of gas cost about $.53[1].

Wanting to be cautious, I prayed, “Lord, if you want me to give $800 to Mike, when we get on the bus to leave tonight keep one seat next to Mike vacant.” I waited by the bus until everyone had gotten on. Then I boarded, and there was only one seat, and it was beside Mike!

The next day I withdrew eight one-hundred dollar bills and put them in an envelope. On the way to Mike’s apartment, I prayed, “Lord, let there be no one at the apartment.” When I arrived, none of the 5 or 6 roommates were there. I went in, slipped the unmarked envelope under Mike’s pillow, and left.

A couple days later, the students were given a chance to share what was happening. I sat excitedly waiting for Mike to speak.

He stood up and said, “I owed $802 on my school bill. A couple of days ago I found an envelope from someone under my pillow. It had $800 in it. That’s great, but that’s not what excited me. Last night two of us were in downtown Kailua-Kona talking to people about Jesus. As I spoke to one man, he insisted on pushing something into my hand. I told him, “We don’t want money,” but the man insisted.  Later when I looked I saw it was $2. I needed exactly $802, and the Lord gave me that precise amount.”

I remember the hair on the back of my neck standing up and getting goose bumps. God taught me a lesson about His ability to provide.

Quotes of Note ... The Invisible World

“Spiritual warfare is learning to recognize the strategies, refusing to cooperate with them, and aggressively cutting off the schemes of the devil in Jesus’ name.” Dean Sherman

“those who protest that God cannot exist because there is too much evil evident in life… Evil exists; therefore, the Creator does not. That is categorically stated… If evil exists, one must assume that good exists in order to know the difference. If good exists, one must assume that a moral law exists by which to measure good and evil. But if a moral law exists, must not one posit an ultimate source of moral law, or at least an objective basis for a moral law? By an objective basis, I mean something that is transcendingly true at all times, regardless of whether I believed it or not.” Ravi Zacharias

“But the Devil is no big threat to God’s purposes; he is not even remotely comparable in power. He has been given a limited time before his final judgment to try to prove his case, just as all other moral beings who have chosen to live in rebellion against heaven.” W.A. Pratney

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I've served as a life-long missionary in Samoa, the Pacific region, India, and now in Pennsylvania. The Christian faith is reasonable and works in real life. It is true to the facts. Hope you enjoy some of the thoughts. I appreciate feedback.

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