Revenge – the desire for it can be a powerful and even overwhelming emotion. Sadly, thinking about revenge can be a fun motivating and bonding experience, as it occupies our minds with creative and yet often diabolical means with which to carry out our purpose. It is amazing how the development of such a negative action can spur such positive feelings. So wait – if all of these positive feelings come from planning revenge then can we rightfully label revenge as wrong? Absolutely! Just because something makes you feel good or empowered or focused doesn’t mean that you are becoming a better person because of those things. Remember, Satan felt good and was empowered and was focused when he rebelled against God – and we all know how that will turn out! Can revenge ever be good? How do we recognize, manage and direct our feelings of revenge?
Thinking about the death of Jesus always produces a variety of emotions. On one hand, we feel a deep sense of gratitude, hope and praise, for without his willing sacrifice and ignominious death, we would all remain under the sentence of sin with no possible way out. In short, we and the entire human race would be doomed to destruction. On the other hand, when we think of his death we feel the dull, persistent aching pain of sadness, because we know Jesus was an entirely innocent man who was subject to the most unfair and devious kinds of deception, mistreatment and torture. Did you ever wonder what was behind the events that brought Jesus to the point of crucifixion? Did you ever think about who did what and why to position the Savior of all mankind as an enemy of the state?
Jesus loves you! This is a true, simple and potentially life-changing statement. Once we accept what that three-word sentence actually means, it can become a steering mechanism for everyday of our lives, pointing us to righteousness, godliness and self-sacrifice. Jesus loves you. Pointed and refreshing, but what does it really mean? Does Jesus’ love for us guide us in our everyday experiences? Yes! Does his love for us mean that he wants the best for us? Of course! Okay, so if he wants the best for us does that refer to comfort and abundance in our lives? Does Jesus’ love for us bring us to better living conditions, more financial stability, a much better present and a brighter future? The answers to these questions will vary wildly depending on whose brand of Christianity you look at and this just confuses the matter. Instead of asking different Christians about the role of comfort and abundance in a Christian’s life, let’s find the answer from Jesus’ own teachings and the Apostle’s own words.
As Christians, we pin all of our hopes on the belief that Jesus was crucified and died for our sins. This is the bottom line core reason for our coming to Christ for it speaks of him doing something for us out of pure love that we in no way could do for ourselves. To us the sacrifice of Jesus represents the ultimate gift. Those outside of Christianity often look at this belief with disdain and even sarcasm for to them it is foolishness and evidence of a blood thirsty god. One question that is probably not talked about much is about the breadth of Jesus’ sacrifice – who did it cover and how do we know? In the present conditions of our world, the Muslim faith is often thought about and referenced. What do Muslims think of Jesus? While they do believe in him, they don’t see him as a redeemer. Does this mean that they are not covered by his sacrifice?
The ability to compromise is a lost art. We have become so diverse in our thinking, so polarized in our viewpoints and so set in our conclusions as unequivocally right, that the mere idea of compromise is in some cases viewed as a repulsive evil. Now look – there are times when compromise should be off the table. There are times when that which is right and sound should not be approached with the idea of watering it down for the sake of making someone or some group or some sect happy. But when? When do we stand as an immovable force and when do we bend and acquiesce to include the preferences of others? Fortunately for us, these very issues existed in biblical times so we actually do have a pretty clear set of guidelines to follow. Is compromise good? Yes! Is compromise bad? Yes! Let’s figure this out!
What would you think of a powerful leader who sanctions rape, pillaging, the destruction of thousands of lives for the wrong doings of one, racism and genocide? No matter who we are, if we have a conscience in any way tuned to the sanctity of human life, we would have to label them a monster – a maniacal psychopathic egotist. Sadly, there are many who read certain parts of the Bible and handily conclude that the God of the Bible – the Creator of all things - is such a being. They call Him out for the horrible and harsh things written in the Old Testament and boldly claim that a God who presides over those things is no god at all – He is instead a monster. Now look – there are terrible things written in the Old Testament, but do they point to a heartless dictator or is there another explanation?
How would you like access to power? This power can change your life, give you things, protect you and even heal diseases! This power is from a source that is unlimited, a source that is generous and a source that truly has your best interest in mind. Sound intriguing? For many Christians, this power is the Holy Spirit and these enticing claims come across as very real. But are they real? Is this what the Holy Spirit is really about or does the truth of the matter look entirely different? Who “gets” the Holy Spirit? When you get it, what does that mean? What does it change? Can we, should we be trying to have the Holy Spirit working in our lives?
A goose that lays golden eggs. King Midas and the ability to turn things to gold through “the Midas Touch.” A winning Powerball Lottery ticket. Confessing Jesus as your Savior and inheriting an irrevocable one-way ticket to heaven. What do all of these things have in common? First of all, they all sound really good at the outset as they all provide a way to find some kind of wealth without work. It sounds like fun, though if you know the stories of the goose and King Midas, things didn’t work out so well. Secondly, they are all not based in reality, even Powerball. With odds of winning placed at over one in 175,000,000, this translates to “not gonna happen, so don’t hold your breath.” Wait a minute; did I just imply that a one-way ticket to heaven is not based in reality? Yes and no! Let’s look!
Defining God is a monumental task. The measure of its difficulty is such that very few will ever follow through with it, for the world is overrun with contradictory myths, stories and legends about the nature and purposes of God. So many stories, so little truth! Defining God requires us to look into things beyond our natural sight. It requires us to grab hold of things beyond our physical reach, and it requires us to believe in things that are beyond our earthly capacity. To know who God is means we would know His character, His mind and what drives Him. Can we know these things? Can we know God’s heart and mind? Can we know God’s plans and purposes? Will knowing God help us to better know ourselves?
We all do wrong. We all hurt other people. Sometimes the hurt we deliver is the result of oversight, ignorance or immaturity, or careless words and actions or sloppy and selfish thinking. We hurt someone, but we don’t really mean it. Sometimes the hurt we deliver is a result of anger or vengeance or jealousy and we absolutely mean to create havoc and turmoil. Either way we do hurt others and we therefore do need forgiveness. So how do we receive forgiveness from others and especially from God? What do we have to do or say or think for forgiveness to take hold? How can we truly know that we are forgiven? Is forgiveness really worth the effort?