Do you want freedom?

Jesus gave up His freedom and died to our condemnation.  He rose again with freedom for all who believe in Him.

You can be free.

If then the Son shall make you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36, Weymouth)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

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Limiting forgiveness?

I remember reading one time in a self-help book that we don’t have to forgive what is not done to us.  In other words, if someone hurts my friend, that burden of forgiveness is not mine to forgive.  After all, it wasn’t done against me, it was done against my friend.

Well, that made since to me, but then, that means absolutely nothing.  What I should have asked back then was: Does this follow in line with God’s thinking, as He revealed Himself through His Word?

What about when David murdered God’s friend, Uriah?  Did God not have to forgive David because the sin was done towards Uriah?  What about when God forgave Manasseh, who burned his children alive in a fire?  Did God not have to forgive Manasseh because the sin was done towards the children and not to Him?

What about Peter?  Did God the Father not have to forgive Peter for what he did to Jesus when Peter denied he knew Jesus three times in His time of greatest need?

God affirms a bond to us when He says,

“‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'” (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 25:40b)

God does feel our pain.  And He does have to forgive us for the pain we cause others.

God not only created us bonded to Him, but He also created us to bond with each other.  When we see someone hurt someone else, we, too, are hurt (I hope).  We should not witness evil and be unmoved.  Sin is not committed against one individual.  Sin is committed against God, and, as such, it affects all of His creation.

When someone sins against us, those of us who are Christ followers must forgive them.  But even when someone sins against someone we love, if we follow Christ, we must forgive them because they have done something against us—knowingly or unknowingly.  They have hurt us by hurting someone we love.  And we can forgive them for the pain they have caused us–but only through Jesus.

Forgiveness is a painful thing.  It hurts and, contrary to popular belief, it is not therapeutic.  That misses the whole point of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is about blessing the other person, not blessing myself.  It’s about blessing someone when they should be cursed; loving someone when they should be hated.

But why on earth would we do such a thing?  I know why I would.  For every one thing I could find to forgive, God has forgiven me ten billion more.  My life is utterly hopeless without God’s forgiveness, not just His forgiveness of what I have done against Him, but His forgiveness of what I have done against all I have sinned against.

Thinking this way, then, forgiving others of all they have done that causes me pain—whether it was done directly against me or done against me by hurting someone I love—is the only way for me to be.  It is the only way I can reflect, in a tiny and broken way, the love shown me by God.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15, NKJV)

Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own people holy and dearly loved, with tender-heartedness, kindness, lowliness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another and readily forgiving each other, if any one has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13, Weymouth)

Why I Would Never Believe in Evolution: Lou Gehrig’s Disease

I watched my father drink his meals.

I put meal replacement drinks in a blender.  I still hear that terrible whir.  My father drank chocolate shakes for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner.  As he drank, he would choke.  Milkshake would come out his nose and mouth as he would cough and gag and struggle to breathe.  Hospice told us that if he choked to the point he couldn’t clear his lungs, there would be nothing emergency services could do.  He didn’t have the muscle strength to push the food up, and trying to dislodge the food wouldn’t work.

He didn’t choke to death, though.  Over a period of about 11 hours, he slowly suffocated as his lungs pulled in less air and he breathed more and more carbon dioxide.

What does this have to do with evolution?

A whole lot, actually.

People who believe God created the universe over billions of years usually believe the fossil record as millions of years old.  Dating dinosaurs back millions of years means that, before the Garden of Eden– which we know happened recently (about 6,000 years ago or so) based on genealogy–there was cancer, because dinosaur bones had cancer.

I don’t accept those bones are millions of years old.  I think the dating methods carry assumptions that will eventually be proven wrong.  But I don’t want to get caught up right now in the dating methods, or even the fossil record, or the Big Bang theory, or any of that.  I want to go back to my father.

If disease was around before Adam fell, disease is not a consequence of sin.  And that would mean God allowed disease to happen “naturally” over the course of millions of years as some animals died out and others survived.  (And humans, of course, would be not a whole lot different than an animal, from an evolutionary standpoint.)

And that means Lou Gehrig’s Disease always happened, or always could have happened.  Genetic mutations–always possible.  Disease–always with us.  And that would mean God called our universe “very good” (see Genesis 1) in the midst of death and slow death.

Believing the God of the Bible would create in this way is so totally inconsistent with everything the Bible tells us about his character, it would be, if people realized what they were actually saying, believing in a different god altogether.

And what hope could I possibly have that this god could create a new heavens and earth I would want to be in, if he could not create the first time without using methods of suffering?

If death and disease is this god’s natural way to allow his creation to exist . . . what hope do I have that my father, right now, doesn’t have Lou Gehrig’s Disease in Heaven?

Isaiah 53:2 says (NKJV) about Jesus:

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows

This passage destroys evolutionary thinking.  For a god who allows suffering, struggle, disease, and death over millions of years just because He likes to create that way . . . has no place in the Bible.  My God cursed the world as a consequence of sin, for the very reason of bringing us back to Him. Only when we realized the severity of our fall could we desire to be pulled out of the deep, dark hole of sin.

My father isn’t suffering in Heaven.  He doesn’t have Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  He isn’t choking on milkshakes.  And he isn’t struggling to breathe.  Because that is not God’s “very good”.

God’s “very good” is how He created the world.  And God’s “very good” is how He restores us and will one day create a new heavens and earth through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ . . . who took away all sin’s power forever for all who trust in Him.

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13, ESV)

For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. (Hebrews 10:10, NLT)

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Find out more about a 6-day creation: Answers in Genesis

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Aren’t bad experiences “valuable”?

The value people sometimes attribute to bad experiences does not come from the evil but from a God who gives dignity to those who have had theirs snatched away.   The God of the Bible does not sin.  He does not create evil things to happen.  What He does is make a road of dignity for us after bad experiences–those that are our fault and those that aren’t.  But we must choose to go down that path.  God does not force us.

Good doesn’t come from evil.  But God comes through evil and in His coming He makes a path of good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28, TNIV)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on September 26, 2011 at 8:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Younger? No. Older? Yes.

I notice I’m not getting younger.

In fact, I think I’m getting older, Lord.

I don’t want a life of meaningless time tangles.

Teach me how to give this day to you, God.

Teach me how to give this very hour.

Teach me this minute, even now, this second, what you want for me.

Whatever it is, Lord, let my heart be opened.  I want to receive your will without fear or arrogance.  I want to fulfill your will every breath of my life.

I want nothing more than to go into eternity as your good and faithful servant.

Younger? No.  Older?  Yes.

More yours?  Yes, Lord, that is what I want most.

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Photograph by Bo (HelloBo), profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/welcome2bo/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

Published in: on September 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Did the miracles really happen? Miracles of Healing

We have probably all, unfortunately, known someone pretending to be a Christian leader who pretended to heal people to con them out of their money.  The Bible warns against such false miracle workers (see Matthew 7:22-23, Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, Revelation 13:11-18).

Jesus sets Himself apart immeasurably from these false prophets.  Here are a few of the ways He distinguishes Himself and those who follow His ministry:

  • He never asks people who want to be healed to give Him money before He will heal them or after He heals them (see all four Gospels).
  • The people He heals are often beggars, outcasts, and the very poor, people who could not give Him any money after healing, either (see, for example, Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 17:11-19, John 9).
  • People who did give Jesus gifts did so willingly and without any coercion or even request (See note [1] for more information).
  • Jesus was so poor He had no home (Matthew 8:20) and performed a miracle to pay taxes (Matthew 17:24-27).
  • Jesus chooses to heal people who are indisputably sick or handicapped (see, for example, Matthew 4:24, Matthew 8:5-14, Matthew 8:16, Matthew 9:1-8 Mark 1:32-1:34) like a paralytic (Matthew 9:2-8), the blind (Matthew 12:22, Matthew 15:30, Matthew 20:30-34, Matthew 21:14, Mark 8:22-26, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 7:21, John 9), the deaf, a child with violent convulsions (Mark 9:14-27), and even the dead (Luke 7:11-17, John 11:1-44).
  • Jesus healed everyone who asked Him, without exception, even people held in unquestionable disgust in the society of His day.
  • Jesus healed people who were well-known to be unwell (or dead!) and people who had been handicapped for a long time.  The beggars Jesus healed would often have been recognizable to most, if not all, of the village or city’s population.
  • Jesus performed so many healings, there are many we only have reference to without specifics (see Matthew 4:23-24, Mark 1:33-34, Mark 3:9-12, Luke 7:21)!
  • Jesus healed people in positions of notoriety or at their request those they cared about, not because they were more important to Jesus than the poor, but because He healed all people who asked Him.  These people further affirm the authenticity of Jesus’ miracles as, for example, a Roman centurion (Luke 7:1-10) or a government official’s son (John 4:43-54), or synagogue leader’s daughter (Luke 8:40-56) [2] held respectable positions in their day.

And none of this deals with the truth that if Jesus’ miracles were false His disciples would never have gone to impoverishment, imprisonment, public beatings, and gruesome deaths for His Namesake.

John summarizes Jesus’ ministry perfectly:

Now, there are many other things that Jesus did. If they were all written down one by one, I suppose that the whole world could not hold the books that would be written. (John 21:25, GNT)

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[1] Some women followed after Jesus and helped support His ministry (see Luke 8:1-3).  A woman who was forgiven of sins poured expensive perfume over His feet and a woman whose brother was raised from the dead poured expensive perfume over His feet.  Simon the Leper had Jesus over for dinner and the fact that he even held a dinner party at his house indicates that Jesus had probably already healed him of leprosy.

[2] The servant to the high priest (see Luke 22:50-51) who was healed is another example.  Even if the servant wasn’t considered to hold a respectable position, the chief priests, officers, and elders in the crowd (see Luke 22:52) most certainly did!  The fact that none of them accused Jesus of performing a false miracle tells us how indisputable Jesus’ healing power was and is and always will be!

Experience

Experience is the making of history.

We constantly “experience” as we live in this world.  In fact, we are all experienced!  From before we were even born, we learned to feel, hear, and see.  Our experiences are somewhat based on our five senses, but they are deeply affected by our past experiences and our beliefs.

For example of past experience, a man who is in the habit of buying cheeseburgers from MacDonald’s® expects those cheeseburgers to taste a certain way.  He would be very surprised if he bit into a cheeseburger and it tasted like lemon pie or tuna casserole!  He uses his past experiences to help guide what he believes will happen in the future.

Have you ever picked up a glass that you thought was water and it turned out to be Sprite®?  What a surprise!  You are expecting water, so the Sprite® you are actually drinking tastes incredibly strange.

For example of belief, a man who thinks it is morally wrong to eat beef is not going to enjoy that MacDonald’s® hamburger very much.  What has changed?  Not the look or smell or taste of the meat, but the belief.  Beliefs are the driving force in experience.

I don’t know what your experiences in life have been, or what you believe, but I do know you can experience the love of God, right now, right here.  And you do not need anything but the free grace of God to be able to experience Him.  This grace if given through His Son, Christ Jesus.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Published in: on September 25, 2011 at 6:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Rebellion

I remember as a kid at times wishing I was 18 and out of the house so there would be no rules or restrictions on my conduct.  18 was the magic number.

Of course, I wasn’t thinking about the rules I would have to follow in college, driving down the road, buying a house, or working a job.  I sure wasn’t thinking of the hidden requirements in public or social settings.

Although I have bucked authority at times in my life, I am a pleaser at heart and usually follow rules.  I never tried to steal as a kid, although once as a young adult I very nearly walked out of Wal-Mart with unpaid lipstick hidden in my shopping cart basket.  That scared me bad (even though I was the one who caught the mistake).  I pictured a police officer handcuffing me as the evening news did a bit on my shoplifting story.

You know, I didn’t think about it for a long time . . . because from the outside, I could keep people fooled . . . but I was in rebellion against God.

I could say the right things, even do the right things . . . but never for the right reasons.  In my heart, I struggled to trust God, even to love Him.  I was afraid of Him; I didn’t understand Him . . . and I didn’t understand His rules.

I was really like the Israelites who, after being led from Egypt with miracles from God, still chose rebellion.

“They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.  Therefore you did not desert them, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies. 

“Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.  You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.” (Nehemiah 9:17-21, TNIV)

Wait a minute, I could say.  But God hasn’t performed any miracles for me!

Or has He?

Isn’t the greatest miracle of all time not the parting of the Red Sea or the manna falling from Heaven or even the pillar of cloud and fire . . . but the sacrifice of God on the cross?

The Israelites wanted to

return to their slavery

All those years I was in rebellion against God . . . I was asking to return to slavery.  I was wanting to appoint a new leader–Satan–over my life.  I tried to replace the love and gift of Christ with my own efforts to get into Heaven.  I was trying to get to the Promised Land, but I was heading back to the place of eternal slavery to sin.

Yet God, in His mercy, kept me breathing, as He sustained the Israelites in the wilderness.  Just as God didn’t abandon them, He didn’t abandon me.  He gave me what He gave them: more time.  Just as He gave them all they needed to survive more years in rebellion, He gave me all I needed to survive more years in my rebellion . . . because of His truly

great compassion

But the story of the Israelites in the wilderness ended for most of them in tragedy.  When God led them to the brink of the Promised Land, most of them threw one more rebellion.

I was angry with those people for forty years.
I said, ‘They are not loyal to me
and have not understood my ways.’
I was angry and made a promise,
‘They will never enter my rest.’ ” 
(Psalm 95:10-11, NCV)

Rebellion is a dangerous game that can end at any time.  At any time, God has the right to revoke the opportunity we have to receive His Son, to give us our last breath, to call us into account.

If we we enter the gates of death in rebellion, we, too, will never enter God’s rest.

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 10:8b-11, ESV)


God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said,

“In my anger I took an oath:

‘They will never enter my place of rest,’”

even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. (Hebrews 4:1-3, NLT)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on September 24, 2011 at 7:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Doesn’t everyone make mistakes?

What do I mean by mistakes?  Am I really talking about sin: my deliberate choice to do wrong?  (For more info see blog Are sins just errors or miscalculations?)

If I am talking about my bad choices, then I am really saying, “Doesn’t everyone sin?”

My reasoning in is on a teenager’s level: if “everyone” does something, that something is “ok” to do.

I’ve moved far from my teenage years, and I hope I’ve moved far from teenage thinking.  And yet . . . I will still catch myself thinking about something I knew was wrong, “But hasn’t everybody really done that?  So what’s the big deal?”

There are at least 2 giant problems with my thinking here.

First, why would I think that just because “everyone” participates in something, that action is justifiable or at least tolerable?  What a jump in logic!  Wouldn’t it be just as logical to think if “everyone” participates in something, that action is wrong?  How should the fact that everyone is doing something persuade me to assign morality or immorality to it[1]?

Second, if everyone really sins, there is no one left to be perfect.

If no one is perfect, there is no perfect Creator, and we could never have been created as beautiful or wonderful beings.

And if no one is perfect, there is no way we can ever escape our sins.

If no one is perfect, there is no truth, just bits and pieces of error-filled ideas scattered around the world to be collected by mistaken people.

If no one is perfect, there is no reason to read this or anything else or try to learn anything at all.

If no one is perfect, there is no good.  After all, who is to to say what’s good if everyone is mistaken?

If no one is perfect, there is no love for how can anyone love without truth or goodness?

If no one is perfect . . . we lose everything that matters.

As for God, His way is perfect. The Word of the Lord is proven true. He is a covering to all who go to Him to be safe. (2 Samuel 22:31, NLV)

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[1] There are examples in history of when “everyone” (really meaning the majority) did something commendable and when they did something wicked.  When the majority of students in a school raise money for a student diagnosed with cancer, we see the right thing.  And when the majority of townspeople discriminate against a stranger, we see the wrong thing.  What brings the majority to do the right or the wrong thing?  Often, the majority follow the lead of one or a few key people with strong convictions . . . rather than taking initiative on their own.

New Life Version.  Used with permission.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

History vs. Science?

History is hypothetically outside the realm of science, because science is based on observation and replication (experimentation).  I can’t observe Abraham Lincoln to see if he was the 16th president of the United States.  And I can’t replicate the universe’s beginning to see how it happened.

Science does, however, influence history . . . and history does influence science.

On the one hand, science gives theories of how the universe began, for example.  This is science presuming upon history.

On the other hand, history gives a ‘past’ that scientists work from.  No one goes into an experiment with no prior knowledge and no expectation of what will happen.  If I place a seed in a pot, for example, I don’t expect it will cause the world to blow up or that it will cause penguins to migrate to North America.  I have boundaries of expectation for the experiment.

So what should I base my decision on: history or science?

What evidence does each side give?

History gives us truth (events that really happened).  Science gives us experiments, observations, probability, and theory.

Before I decide which to trust, I have to ask myself . . . why is truth a part of history?

For anything to be true, it must have a beginning in a Being who is truth or able to create truth.  Otherwise, where would truth come from?  It can’t have come from chance, since chance would never allow for objective moral standards of any kind.  (The Christian God is Truth and is able to create Truth as He speaks.)  If anything in history is the truth (for example, if it’s true that I brushed my hair this morning), then I have to ask myself . . . where is that truth coming from?  Why is it that the past really happened?  In a chance universe, how can anything be reliable?  Why would the past stay the same?

Back to my decision: I can trust history (truth) or science (experiments, observations, probability, theory).

The first—truth—can only prove creation true.  How so?  It cannot prove creation is untrue by its own “chance universe” claim in no absolute truth . . . and, therefore, no truth.  Therefore, creation can be proved to ways: by truth or experiment/observations.  A chance universe, on the other hand,  can be proved only by experiments/observations.

The second–experiments/observations–is actually irrelevant.  How so?  If there is no absolute truth, nothing can ever be known for certainty out of an experiment.  There is no ability for trustworthy historical documentation.  How can I know what happened in an experiment when there is no reliability the outcome will be the same under the same circumstances (if there is no truth), and I can’t even rely on my memory of the experiment as an aid (if there is no truth)?

Perhaps when I plant a seed, the universe did explode and I don’t know it because the past is relative and without truth . . . perhaps penguins will migrate to North America if I plant another seed.  How can I know anything, if there is no premise of truth?  Logic cannot exist without truth.  History cannot exist without truth.  And even science itself is toast!

If I have no truth to hold onto, the only thing I can cling to is logic-less, irrational chance.  So how can anything be known?  But this is the very least scientific of all: the inability to know anything.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  (Psalm 14:1b, ESV)