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?
Judgment Day! The very words strike fear into the hearts of many believers across the borders of many religions. After all, this world obviously does not dole out any form of true justice to its vast population, and whatever God you may believe in surely sees this and will soon balance those scales that are presently so skewed in their measure. Justice! For many believers there is a conviction that God’s justice will soon come to earth in the form of anger, wrath and fire and bring the result of a destruction never seen upon this planet! Judgment and Justice – are these images of mayhem and obliteration really what the Bible describes? Is this world in for a dark and miserable night of pain from the wrath of God from which there is no tomorrow or is there an entirely different meaning and result of Judgment Day? What does the Bible REALLY say?
Good and Evil. Throughout history there has always been a battle between the two and for many who hold a religion as sacred, this battle has its leaders. As Christians, we embrace God Almighty as the unequivocal Creator and Leader of all that is good and righteous, and we see Satan as the captain of all the dark forces that stand against God. So, just who is Satan? Is he a real being, and if so, how did he get to be so evil? If God created all that is good, then how could God have created Satan, the father of darkness? Does Satan come from someplace else? Did God make a mistake?
Lots and lots of people pray, and we pray for all kinds of things from wanting more material things in our lives to wanting to be healed from disease or injury, to wanting bad experiences to end. While we also pray for God’s will to be done, it seems as though the focus of most of our prayers is about – well, it is all about "me" – what I feel, what I want and what I prefer. Think about it...praying is supposed to be spiritual access to the God of all things and in that access all we can focus on is...me!? So, how is prayer supposed to work? Are there guidelines or rules for HOW we should pray? Are there dos and don’ts for WHAT we should be praying for? Is prayer an open and easily accessible tool for anyone who wants to talk to God or is it more of a privilege for those who are seeking God’s will?
Christianity is about transformation - at least, that’s what it is supposed to be about. The problem is when we look at Christianity, what we often see is something else, something different. In some ways it seems as though Christianity has fallen into the trap of a competitive evangelism – recruiting as many new believers as possible. Now wait a minute – aren’t we supposed to do that? Yes we are, but how are we supposed to do it? What do we believe the name of Jesus saves us from? What do we believe a Christian life should look like? What do we believe is God’s plan for the masses? Do any of these things really matter? Should we just be focusing on being good, honest and loving?
Sometimes there are things, seemingly small things that can change the world. Compassion and caring for instance. By just showing a little compassion or by acting in a way that shows you care can have a dramatic affect not only on the giver and recipient of these actions, but on those who witness them as well. A few weeks ago we talked about loving our enemies – today we ask – how can we better care for our friends? How can we, in practical terms, be our “brother’s keeper”?
We live in a time of great contradiction. There are voices that shout, rant and insist for all in our society to embrace and accept everyone no matter what their choices in life are and no matter what their actions in life may be. Their message in many ways is framed as one of love – love for those who are opposite, love for those who are different. Then there are those like myself who say that while I am willing to accept and love people regardless of their choices, I will not embrace anything I believe is not moral or righteous. I will love the person but not the action. For this I have been called a "hater" by those who preach that you should embrace those who are different than you. Jesus told us to love our enemies, but what exactly does that mean? Am I not loving enough? Do I need to change?
Hasn’t it been long enough? Meaning, it is 2,000 years since Jesus walked the earth with the promise of change, the promise of righteousness and the promise of his kingdom. So, where is he? Where is the change – the good - that he promised? All we can see now is a world that slowly walks away from Christianity and that walks towards self...self-satisfaction, self-gratification and self-worship. Has the power of the message of Jesus quietly faded into the sunset? Is the Gospel lost and gone forever?