Life has really changed. With all of the amazing connectedness we have through social media, we are more alone than ever. We see people via Facetime but we cannot touch them. We “chat” without talking. We “like” without truly feeling emotion, we “follow” without knowing where we are going and we “join” without ever going anywhere. As a result of all of this non-active activity, when someone crosses us in any of these virtual environments we can snap back at them in so many ways with without having to actually face them. We tweet, post, Instagram, email, text – all with anonymity. Funny, Jesus specifically taught us to “turn the other cheek” - not to virtually smack them upside their head! What does turning the other cheek even mean and how do we apply it in both our real and virtual worlds? Is this teaching of Jesus still as relevant and powerful as it was centuries ago?
When I was a kid and faced with the potential consequences ("consequences" nothing...I mean I was faced with getting punished!) for my actions, there was often that moment that every kid dreads. I had to tell my dad or mom what I did. Now look, they already knew what I did; they were teaching me to own what I did. Anyway, at those fateful and fearful moments, my dad would often say “tell the truth and shame the devil!” This was never easy to hear for it reminded me that God is pleased with truth and the devil is pleased with lies, and even though lying seemed like a “get out of jail free” card, it was really an “out of the frying pan and into the fire” card. Guidelines are easier when you are a kid. As adults, how well do we do when faced with the gray areas and the white lies of life? Do we have resolve? Is it strong? What is it based upon? Can God bless us when in those gray areas?
Prayer is a staple of religion. If you don’t follow any particular religion then perhaps you meditate. The point is, humans by and large are tuned to opening their minds to some kind of external power or tranquility. For many, this opening of their minds provides a sense of security and peace as they feel heard, accepted and cared for. So, is prayer a commodity that should be passed out to and encouraged among the masses? Is it an elixir that can be taken to cure what ails you? How does prayer even work? What are its key ingredients and what is its process – or is there one? Can prayer, will prayer, change your life?
What has happened to us? We live in an age where ego and emotion are more important than virtue and values. An age where personal preference outweighs personal worth and “I want it now” trumps integrity. We live in an age where absolutes aren’t (unless we decide they fit into our personal plan) and standards are only something to customize and remodel to our personal satisfaction. Ours is an age where the ancient principles of sin and objective morality are being relegated to the trash heap of history. So, what are we supposed to do? Should we go along with the flow of thoughts and emotions that are reshaping our social structure? Should we abandon what is considered to be the old and worn out moral thinking of the past and embrace the new and vibrant personally-based principles of the present?
A few weeks ago we began a conversation about the Bible and its inherent challenges of understanding and interpretation. As we discussed the book in all of its complexity, we suggested a very straightforward and simple conclusion: the Bible is difficult to understand because it was purposely written to be difficult to understand. Such a conclusion really disturbs most common Christian thinking about converting the world here and now. As we continue to lay out what we believe to be the reasons for such an avoidance of world appeal by the Scriptures, we now turn the focus on the really big question of results. Why would God, why did God set up a plan where everyone does NOT get a fair chance to come to an understanding of the Bible in our present environment? What good could possibly come from such a strategy?
In the immensity and complexity of the book we call the Bible, there are some verses that have become somewhat famous…like the Christmas text “Good tidings of great joy…” The football stadium text “For God so loved the world… the character of God text “God is love…”. Another text that is well known and deeply meaningful is spoken by Jesus to one of the thieves dying on the cross next to him, Jesus said “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise…” This text shows us the power of God’s love as expressed through the compassion of Jesus and his sacrifice and it is truly inspirational in the hope that it portrays. Now, here is a simple and very legitimate question - what was Jesus saying to this thief? What was he promising and why was he promising it? As we find out by examining so many verses of Scripture, what seems to be said is not always what is really meant. So, did Jesus really say what most th
Pick up a book or an article and start reading...if that book or article is well-written, it will bring you to some kind of conclusion, some kind of understanding or realization that you didn’t have before. Now, these realizations can be across a wide scope of subjects and learning, but the bottom line is you picked up that well-written book or article and now you have some greater knowledge or insight. Now pick up the Bible and start reading…it starts out all good and wonderful and then just six chapters later it seems like God gets mad and pretty much scraps His whole creation thing. Why? Read further and the confusion grows! So, what's up with this, anyway? The Almighty God, creator of all things, surely could have had the Bible written in such a way that it would be universally understood! Well the fact is, He didn’t! Why not? There is actually a really cool answer to this!
...Unless one is “born again.” This phrase carries great meaning no matter what Christian denomination you come from. The meaning of the phrase certainly changes depending upon your particular belief system, but the power of the phase remains intact. To be “born again” in all cases implies one of the most significant spiritual changes any person can ever experience. So when does being “born again” happen and what does it really mean? Does this spiritual change happen when one is baptized as an infant or when one commits their life to God through Jesus or when one is baptized as an adult or when one dies? Is this spiritual change a prepaid one way ticket to heaven or an opportunity for power and control in your present life, or is it a sober and humbling opportunity to sacrifice all that you have and all that you are?
Christians like most other people are creatures of habit. Although society has engineered dramatic changes in how we handle our lives, for many Christians the act of going to church remains a staple in their lives. We go to church to do what? Traditionally we have gone to learn about God, to have fellowship with those of like mind, to get away from the rat race of our lives and to remind ourselves about how to live in a Christlike fashion. Traditionally we have gone to church to reaffirm our faith – to strengthen ourselves to better stand for our core beliefs. As I said, times have changed...now it seems as though many of us go to church for different reasons. In many instances church has become a place of neighborly activity, social acceptance, goodness, activities entertainment and fun. Church is now a nice place to go to feel good about myself. So, are these changes unhealthy or bad? What’s wrong with feeling good about myself? What makes a church a really good church?
Have you noticed how easy it is to offend people these days? There seems to be such an overt need to accept and to be accepted that we go overboard with the “correctness” of our words and behavior lest we hurt anyone’s feelings at any time. Now, being accepting of others is a good thing, but is it the most important thing? Should we willingly lay all other principles and standards upon the altar of mutual acceptance? Are we compelled to accept the world the way it is without regard to the good we have gleaned from the way it was? How did Jesus do it? He certainly spent time with the sinners of his day but was it at the cost of higher principles? Did Jesus actually “hang out” with sinners? Was his time with them to make them feel good or accepted? What is God’s role in all of this? If we want a relationship with God, does He accept us as we are or is there more to it?