Does God create people for destruction?

Jesus warns us there are three things Satan wishes to do:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy

(John 10:10a, NIV)

In this passage, Jesus calls Satan “the thief” and those Satan works through are “thieves and robbers”.  But why?  What is Satan trying to steal?

“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

(John 10:7b-10, NIV)

What would a thief entering the sheep pen try to steal?  A sheep.

That would mean that Satan is trying to rob God of His followers.  Does Satan succeed?

the sheep did not listen to them (from v. 8)

The quality of being a sheep in this passage seems to be listening to the voice of the Shepherd, and not listening to the voices of others.

“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:1-5, NIV)

He calls his own sheep by name (from v. 3)

The words “his own” would seem to suggest that there are sheep who are not “his own”.  These sheep who do not belong to Jesus do not follow His voice because they do not know Him.

Here are surely the worst words a soul can hear on the Day of Judgment:

‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ (Luke 13:27b)

Jesus’ people hear His voice and follow Him.  This is exactly what happens when someone comes to salvation.  The person hears the voice of Christ in God’s Word or a pastor’s message or a friend’s testimony or a website or article or book or tract or television program or radio show, etc.

When we hear Christ’s voice through God’s Word, we are hearing His perfect voice.  Many people first hear His voice through an imperfect voice, like a pastor or website.  How is that possible?  God’s Spirit is using that source to convict the person of their sin and call them to repentance.

Door-to-door evangelism is rarely done anymore and highly scoffed.  However, one day in the 70’s a man knocked on my dad’s door, talked with him, and gave him a tract.  My father read the tract and became a Christian.  From that point forward, the Word of God was the treasure of my father’s life.

God gives us His perfect Word to hear His voice, and that alone would have been above and beyond what we deserve.  But God did not wait for people to go to a library or bookstore to read His Word.  He has given His people as witnesses of His Word to spread the Message of salvation throughout the world.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20, NIV)

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Are God’s jealousy, anger, and expectation for worship & obedience clues that He is a bad God?

Imagine you see a child you care very much about standing far away from you, but very close to the car of a mean-looking stranger holding out candy in his hand.  What would you do?

I might say something like, “Come over here now! That is a bad man!”

If an onlooker who really didn’t like me wanted to tell others what I did, what could (s)he say?

1)     I was jealous for the child’s attention.

2)     I was extremely angry with the child.

3)     I expected the child to obey me.

4)     The child felt pressure to obey me.

All of these things are true.  But this doesn’t nearly tell the whole story.

1)     I was jealous for the child’s attention because the child was giving attention to a wicked man.

2)     I was extremely angry with the child for being so foolish—we’ve talked about not going up to strangers for candy!

3)     I expected the child to obey me to save the child’s life.

4)    The child felt pressure to obey me.  I wanted the child returned safely and not kidnapped by a murderer.

When we look at God’s anger, jealousy, and expectation for obedience & worship, we need to remember that Satan wants to distort God’s Truth and give us only half of the story.  (Listening to Satan is a lot like going up to the mean-looking stranger with the candy and asking for his side of the story.)  What is really going on in God’s interactions with humanity since the time of Adam and Eve?

1)     God is jealous for us.

“Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (from God’s direct talk to Moses in Exodus 34:14, NIV)

Parents don’t take kindly to other people luring their children away to come live with them in an unknown or dangerous place.  They have intense jealousy–yet we don’t hold that against them!  We expect it of them!  How much more does God have a right to become jealous when the people He made in His image are lured away from Him!!!!!!!!

2)     God is angry with us when we sin.

But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5, NLT)

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15, NIV)

Most parents get pretty angry if their child wanders away in the middle of a crowded street or sneaks away in the middle of the night or runs away from home.  They aren’t just angry–they are grieved, too.  But anger is definitely part of the equation, because of the danger to the child and the disrespect of the parent’s protection.

Sin is wandering away, sneaking away, or running away from God.  God becomes angry.  He isn’t only angry.  The Bible communicates that He feels grief and longing, too.  And from Adam’s first sin, He also felt love and mercy, because He sent His Son to pay for our wickedness.  Sin is very costly.  A runaway teen who got caught after vandalizing stores, stealing electronics to sell for liquor, hot-wiring a car and wrecking a car, and assaulting a police officer isn’t going to be able to simply come home.

But God sent His Son to pay for our sin so that, when we repent of our wickedness and turn back to Him, so that we can come straight home.

God is angry with us when we sin—and He’s right to be.  But there is much more to the story, for those who care to look.

3)     God expects us to obey Him.

Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live. (Psalm 119:144, NLT)

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'” (Jesus, quoting from Deuteronomy, Mark 12:30, NIV)

God does not want our lives to be destroyed by Satan or for us to live in everlasting separation from Him, since sin and God cannot live together.  God is jealous because He loves us and wants to save us from Satan’s hellish parenting practices, which quickly come to have far more in common with slavery than parenting.  Satan wants to take us down to Hell with him; God wants to lift us up to Heaven with Him.

Like the parent of a teenage daughter who is choosing to live with a cruel and abusive boyfriend rather than the love and safety of her parents, God is jealous for us.  Would we want Him to be otherwise?

4)    Believers feel pressure to obey God.

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (Jesus, quoted in John 5:25, NIV)

Then they [the crowd] asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29, NIV)

Obedience has been undermined in our culture.  But we all have to obey to an extent, unless we want to end up in a maximum security cell–or worse.

I don’t know anyone who goes 90 mph in neighborhoods or brings a hammer to jewelry shops to bust the cases open.  Nobody gets away with this kind of thing for very long, nor is it, in actuality, a happy life.  Criminals have to fear every knock at the door and hide or risk getting caught.

Jail isn’t a good place to be, but it is a good thing to have jail.  It deters many people from committing crimes.  God allowing us to feel the pressure of the consequences of our disobedience is a mercy to us.  God is kind to warn us about Hell, a little like how we would be kind to warn a rebellious teenager that jail is a real possibility.

It comes down to this: Christians serve a Father, a Lord, a Master, and a King.  Obedience isn’t an option, like a side dish to an entree.  God chooses to use our obedience to open our hearts to Him.  We are obedience when we have faith that Jesus paid for our sins and we receive His payment.  That obedience does not merit the eternal life, but it does make us able to receive it.

“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7b, NLT)

Are some people locked out of eternal life before they are even born?

Jesus made this sobering injunction of the Pharisees,

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:52, NIV)

It wouldn’t make sense for Jesus to say this if He didn’t care about the people who were being persuaded not to enter His Kingdom.  If these people were simply made by God not to enter Heaven, why would He care if the Pharisees hindered them?  In fact, how could the Pharisees hinder them?

I can’t block you from entering a locked door.  If the door is locked, you won’t go inside whether I’m standing in front of it or not.  So we know from Luke 11:52 that Jesus wants people to go through the entrance to Heaven.  Otherwise, He would be accusing the law experts of something He did Himself!  Yet Jesus was so perfectly honest during His life time, that He had no fear when He asked His accusers this question:

Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? (John 8:46, NIV)

We can trust Jesus.  His worst enemies couldn’t find any sin within Him.  Peter the close follower of Jesus says about Him,

“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22, NIV)

There are more passages we could look at, but I hope this is a starting point for you to realize that God does not lock people out of eternal life before they are born.  God is good–we should never ascribe to Him characteristics He calls evil.

‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.’ (from Ezekiel 33:11, NIV)

 

Can God be disappointed with us?

I’ve heard of disappointment with God–as though I could ever find disappointment in an immortal, all-knowing God of infinite love and mercy who died for my wretched, filthy soul.  I have no question whether or not I might be disappointed with God–never.

But what about God?  Can He be disappointed with us?

But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames. (1 Corinthians 3:10b-15, NLT)

The phrase

escaping through a wall of flames

doesn’t sound like something I want to be doing.  It sounds like a moment of panic, awful realization, and–when the hand of Jesus pulls the believer out from a smoking life–the most embarrassing moment of a person’s life.

There is no doubt this will be a moment of great gratitude for the believer saved by grace . . but it will also be a moment of humiliation.

To enter the Kingdom of Heaven with empty hands?

This surely doesn’t sound like a moment where God will be proud.

I think sometimes we want so badly for this life to be effortless and God’s expectations to be nothingness, that we create a false image of God as always proud of us, always ready to applause, always there with a positive word.  But that’s not the God presented in Scripture.  And, if we’re really honest with ourselves, it would be terrible parenting.

A child defying his parents and bullying his brothers and sisters and hoarding all the toys doesn’t need to hear, “I’m so proud of you.”  That would be encouraging the monster (sin nature) to grow.  In the same way, we cannot and should not expect God to be proud of us when we are selfish with our time, talent, or money . . or when we behave in ways that disgrace His Name . . or when we mistreat each other.

God can be disappointed in us–but that shouldn’t really be the news.  The news should be, God can be proud of us.  The immortal, all knowing God of infinite love and mercy who has rescued us can still be proud of us!

I think about adopting a dog from the pound.  I am the one who rescues the dog, cares for the dog and does everything for the dog.  But what if my dog one day runs into traffic and yanks a child out of the way of an oncoming car?  Now I am also proud of my dog.

I want God to be proud of me–not to try meriting my rescue–because there’s no way to do that–or to try to repay God’s kindness.  But what I can do is show God how much I love Him by giving Him all my time, talent, and money . . exalting His name . . and bringing honor to others.  I want God to be proud of me.  Each and every day.  Not to earn His love, but because He’s worth it.

The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:20-23, NIV)

Resistance

I wasn’t very good about doing chores as a kid.  Or good at all.  My mom tried incentive charts, and they would work for a few days, but then I’d lose interest.

One thing I was always forgetting to do was laundry.  One day my mom, frustrated that I never put away my own laundry, laid it in a heap on my bed.  That worked.  I had to fold the laundry and take it to my closet so I could lay down in my bed.

Well, it worked that time, anyway.

It didn’t take long for me to think this through: laundry was cloth and my bed linens were cloth: Why couldn’t they co-inhabit the same space, kinda like the owls and the howler monkeys in a happy rainforest?

Yes, I actually slept in my bed that night with the laundry on my bed.

I remember my mom coming to wake me up in the morning and saying something like, “You didn’t honestly sleep with that laundry on your bed, did you?”

Well, it was kinda hard to deny.

The more my mom tried to get me to care about the laundry, the more indifferent I grew, even to the point that I got used to sleeping with laundry on my bed.

I probably owe my mom about 5,000 loads of laundry.

.                    .                     .                      .                      .

We get so used to avoiding God.

We build up a higher and higher resistance against His voice.  We tolerant higher and higher levels of guilt.  We ignore greater and greater signs that He loves us and is calling us to be His children.

And one day, most of the world will wake up and discover the chance to love God is gone.

No one will then deny that God gave us all the opportunity to follow Him, not when we see how He has been calling us.

And none of us will be able to pay back the debt of sin we owe for what we didn’t do and should have, or did do and shouldn’t have.

Boy, that’s bad news.

But we don’t have to live in resistance right now.  If you can read this, then you still have the chance to turn to Him.

The good news is, the chance to love God is not based on how many things we do right or haven’t done wrong.  My mom’s love (very fortunately) never was based on how many loads of laundry I did.  Her love for me is based just on the fact that I’m her child.

That’s how God wants to treat us!  Jesus came to pay for our sin so we could be adopted as children of God.  The Bible tells us that sin doesn’t have any power to keep a child of God out of Heaven, because Jesus pays for all sin.  God’s Spirit guides us to live holy lives once we belong to Him!

If you’re not a child of God, that’s where you’ve got to start.  And if you are a child of God, don’t be like me with my mom and the laundry.  I don’t want to win the Laziest Child Award when I get to Heaven.  God has been more merciful in my life than I can wrap my mind around–I don’t want to disgrace Him by continually behaving as the prodigal.  I don’t want to build up a resistance to His Words of warning or an immunity to His call.

I want to serve Him with everything I am . . without any resistance at all.

Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.Remember what it says:

“Today when you hear his voice,

don’t harden your hearts

as Israel did when they rebelled.”

(Hebrews 3:12b-15, NLT)

Couldn’t God “make” people go to Heaven?

Could God force us to repent, chain us to Heaven, and make us “choose” good over evil?  Maybe the better question is, Would He?

I have always been scared of animatronics—do you know what I’m talking about?  Those high-tech robots that perform certain movements over and over.  My family vacationed in Universal Studios in California many years back.  We rode a tour-like ride where a giant—and I do mean BIG–gorilla reached out his hand to grab me.

I screamed and squished myself into the Asian tourists sitting next to me.  They were very kind to me.  (And politely refrained from loud laughter–but not all laughter.)

It wasn’t exactly that I was afraid that animatronic gorilla was going to come alive.  It was that I was afraid because it wasn’t alive.  It had been programmed to do something.

What had it been programmed to do?

I for one certainly didn’t know.

But I knew this for sure: it had no choice but to do what it was programmed to do.  If it had been programmed to grab me with its big old robotic fist and chop me in its metal teeth, I was doomed.  I couldn’t, after all, plead with an animatronic gorilla.  I couldn’t hurt the animatronic gorilla.

Fortunately for me, the gorilla had been programmed to roar and shake a fake van in its fist or something like that.  But grabbing passengers out of the tour bus and eating them wasn’t in its memory chip.  No matter what happened, day or night, that gorilla would do the same thing: roar, shake fist.  If there was a giant banana on the tour bus, the gorilla would roar and shake its fist as the banana rotted.  And if there was someone about to be crushed under the tour bus, the gorilla would roar and shake its fist as the bus ran the person over.  If there was a fire on the ride, the gorilla would roar and shake its fist until the electricity blew a fuse in the flames.

No chance for villainy–and no chance for heroism, either.  Just robotic movement: roar, shake fist.  Over and over.

God didn’t create animatronic people.  And I’m so glad!  Isn’t God good!?!  Can you imagine having no choice about anything?  What kind of world would that be?  We couldn’t so much as decide whether we wanted a pear or an orange for snack time in preschool.

Children like choice in what they will wear to school, which project they can do for science, or how what after-school activity they can choose to participate in.  Teenagers like choice in where they will drive their (or their parents’) car, what they can text, and who they can date.

As adults, we are no different.  We expect to be able to choose our job, whether to eat spaghetti or cheeseburgers for dinner, whether to put a small waterfall in our backyard or choose a new armchair.  We like choice.

Choice is a great gift from God.  And it is almost totally unappreciated.  How many times have I thanked God for giving me the ability to choose?

Satan is about taking away our ability to choose.  He is the god of animatronics.  He wants nothing more than for you to mindlessly obey his will–and be lost forever.

I’m not a big fan of gorillas in their post-fall state.  I wouldn’t want to meet one in the wild.  But before our choice to sin, I think they were awfully fun to play with.  It would be awfully fun to ride piggyback on a hygienic (before the fall) gorilla and whisked through the trees.  No throwing poop (I’m probably going to get in trouble with biologists because only monkeys do that) or fleas in their coats or bad breath.

You know what the best thing about pre-fall gorillas was?  Everything they did was in the realm of perfection, because the world was still in God’s perfect original state, and everything they did was chosen.

Even though Adam and Eve were the only creatures capable of morality or immorality in the Garden of Eden, even a gorilla could make choices.  Have you ever noticed that animals are not pre-programmed?  There was a squirrel in my backyard earlier, and it ran up to the stone rabbit on the bird feeder and sat on top of it.  It was hilarious.  I wanted to take a picture.  Why?  Unlike an animatronic, that squirrel might never get back on that statue again!  Even in animals we see God’s gift of choice.

How much more we humans have been given the gift of choice!  We have a realm of choice not accessible to any animal.  We can make moral choices.

If we want to be angry with God for giving us choice—and if we want to be angry with God for all the death and suffering we have brought on ourselves as a consequence of our choice, choice that affects us both directly (the consequences for our personal sin) and indirectly (the consequences for our collective sin)–we might as well say we want to be animatronics.

I wouldn’t like being tied up all day, would you?  But at least if we are tied up, we can still makes choices in how we think.  But to be incapable of choice would mean to not be able to act or even think.  But isn’t this the very thing we all want to run away from?

Atheists sometimes claim that Christianity “brainwashes” us.  How tragic that the very opposite is happening.  Christianity gives us the ability to come back to the freedom of choice in God.  If we don’t come back, one day we will lose the incredible privilege to choose, because we will have aligned ourselves with the very one who strips us of all choice: Satan.  Satan is the king of choicelessness, and as such he can make no good choices.  Ultimately, even Satan is mastered by evil.  Evil has chains of determinism that he, most of all, cannot escape.

One day, we who have chosen to follow Christ will be made perfect in Him, and all the choices we make will be only good again, as they were in the Garden of Eden before we chose sin.  But unlike in Eden, we will no longer be able to choose to sin, because we will have chosen to surrender our life of sin forever to God.  We are only able to make this choice because of the Lord Jesus Christ’s choice to pay for our sins.

Our choice comes down to this: Do we want to one day die and find out we are permanently separated from God, and the choice He freely gives because of His own free nature?  Or do we want to experience choice the way God experiences choice–choosing only good, only love?

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness.”
(Joshua 24:14a)

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”
(Joshua 24:15a)

Wishing well prayers

College tests stressed me out.  I would throw a prayer towards Heaven before a test, “Lord, help me do good.”  Something like that. Not too fancy, but ‘insurance’ just in case I needed a little extra celestial help.

If I got a 98 or 96%, I decided It had probably been my smartlyness and hard work.  If I did thank God, it was only ritualitistic–I didn’t want Him to curse or jinx my next test.

I prayed a lot like I tossed coins into a fountain.  For more serious requests, I threw in “quarter” prayers.  For the everyday kind of askings, I threw in “penny” prayers.

When I “got my wish”, I didn’t feel like I had anything to be thankful for.  After all, it was me who threw the coin in—right?  And anyway, does someone really go back and thank a wishing well for good luck?

But when I didn’t get my wish, do you know what?

I was usually mad at God.

My inconsistency revealed what I really knew deep inside: God is not a coin fountain.

One day, I dropped all my coins and ran from the fountain to the arms of God.

Once I saw the love of God for what it is, I never wanted to go back to that personless well of my imagination.

When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,

may your name be kept holy.

May your Kingdom come soon.

May your will be done on earth,

as it is in heaven.

Give us today the food we need,

and forgive us our sins,

as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

And don’t let us yield to temptation,

but rescue us from the evil one.

(Matthew 6:7-13, NLT)

_____________________________________________________________

Photograph by Vladimer Shioshvili , profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/vshioshvili/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on June 22, 2012 at 6:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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KWL

A way of “thinking about thinking” is the KWL chart, which asks:

  • What do I already know?
  • What do I want to know?
  • (And after information is given) What have I learned?

In theory, the KWL chart sounds like a great way to teach people.  And it kind of is, if what you want is for them to know something.

There’s a surprising thing about knowledge, though.  You would think it would be the key to right living.  But is it, by itself?  For example, do we say:

  • “If she only knew how people felt about her rude remarks, she wouldn’t say them.”
  • “If he only knew the damage he was doing, he wouldn’t abuse his wife.”
  • “If they only knew what foods were nutritious, they would eat healthy.”
  • “If they only knew that downloading music was illegal, they wouldn’t do it.”

Most people would laugh off or otherwise dismiss the suggestion that knowledge would be enough in these situations.  People usually know already.  Like, I know the benefits of exercise.  I could probably write a book about exercise.  I could even come up with fantastic exercise tips.  But none of this seems to have much transfer, because I’ve been to the gym all of . . 3 times I think this month.  And its the 21st.

In our hearts, we understand that just knowing isn’t what we usually need.  Yet we play games with ourselves like:

  • I didn’t “know” any better.
  • I didn’t “know’ what to do.
  • I “know” Jesus.

In how many cases can I really say I did not “know” any better?  A few.  I did not know any better when I thought Mr. Rogers could see me from the TV.  When I was four.  But most of the time, I do “know” better.  I “know” the benefits of exercise.  But I still don’t exercise much.

How often do I really not “know” what to do?  Sometimes.  When I don’t know what to do, it’s usually because I rush to make a decision.  Most of the time, I do know what to do, there is just something else I would rather do.  Only rarely do I really come up against a situation where I really don’t know what to do, and that is almost always because I have gotten myself into some kind of convoluted mess.

What do I mean when I say I “know” Jesus?  This is the most important question of all.  What kind of knowing is it?  Is it the kind of knowing that would fit on a KWL chart?  Scripture says,

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

(1 Corinthians 8:1b)

We aren’t being told here to try not to know anything, but we are told that knowledge on its own is only good for making us feel more important than we really are, like a full-o’-air puffer fish.  We have to love for knowledge find its purpose.

A puffer fish puffs itself full of air to be impressive & scare away its enemies.  Christ followers aren’t to use their knowledge to impress anyone or scare them away.  Instead, we are called to use our knowledge to humbly draw others to Christ.
[Photograph by Jon Connell]

Do we marry somebody because we know them or because we love them?  I hope it’s because we love them!

Of course, we have to know them first.  I wouldn’t look across the room at a coffee shop and think, You know what?  That guy is really cute and he’s not wearing a wedding wing.  I think I love him!  I’ll marry him!  

On the other hand, I wouldn’t marry someone just because I’ve known them my whole life.  Knowing someone doesn’t have anything to do with loving them.

Here’s my challenge to you: Do you “know” Jesus just because you’ve heard about it all your life, or do you know Him and believe in Him?  Salvation is an action experience.  It’s not just knowing someone.  Believing is aligning yourself with someone.

Now it’s super important to understand: believing in Jesus isn’t the same as believing in a friend.  I can believe a friend when she tells me she’ll meet me for lunch at one o’clock.  But believing in Jesus is accepting His claims, and they are not run-of-the-mill meet-you-at-one o’clock claims.  They are life-upside-down change-you-forever claims.  Believing in Jesus is believing He is the Son of God, that He saves you from your sins, that He expects you to give up everything in the way of following Him, that He expects you to work for Him, and etc.  These aren’t optional claims.  Believing in Jesus is accepting all of what He says and does, because if He said or did even one wrong thing, He couldn’t be perfect, and if He’s not perfect, He couldn’t save us from our sins.

The claims of Jesus are all-or-nothing.  We can’t pick and choose.  He either is the perfect sacrifice, or He isn’t.  And because Jesus affirms the Old Testament Scripture in His teachings, we receive the Old Testament as His Word, too.  And because He said that He would give Peter as a rock to build the church on (the foundation for the church is Jesus), we believe everything Peter wrote, too.  And because Peter said that all Scripture is from God, every bit of the Old and New Testament belongs to Jesus.  (Peter also directly affirms Paul’s writings.)

Do you “know” Jesus the way you know George Washington and Abraham Lincoln (a KWL chart)?  Or do you know Jesus in belief, following Him in whatever He commands (a lifetime pursuit and an eternal commitment)?

There’s a big difference.

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:26, NIV)

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Photograph by Jon Connell, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/ciamabue/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Party time!

“My heart rejoices in the Lord!

The Lord has made me strong.

Now I have an answer for my enemies;

I rejoice because you rescued me.” (1 Samuel 2:1b, NLT)

A broken spirit healed by God brings party time!

I used to live in fear of panic attacks.  I had so much anxiety that at times I felt like I could only stand to live because I was afraid of dying.  All the zeal I have for God now comes from the realization of what He’s done for me.

To wake up in the morning and want to get up, frustrated because there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do all I want to do for Jesus . . it’s better than a surprise birthday party every day.  I used to wonder if I could get up out of bed, so I could spindle out my day, so I could shut out my misery with the blast of the television or action of a video game . .

God has invited me to the work of mattering.  I got the invitation!

I’ve been hired by Him.  Strike up the band!

He is the only employer who always listens.  Blow the noisemakers!

He has work for me. Bring out the cake!

Each second of my time is precious to Him.  Throw the confetti!

I never want to retire.  Blow up the balloons!

And one day, I’ll be with Him in Heaven.  Blow out the candles!

–My broken spirit has been healed by Your broken body, Jesus.–

“My heart rejoices in the Lord!

The Lord has made me strong.

Now I have an answer for my enemies;

I rejoice because you rescued me.” (1 Samuel 2:1b, NLT)

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Photograph by Eirik Solheim, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/eirikso/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.