Tag: Christianity

Almighty, Eternal God!

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The Gospel of John, 1:1-13

The very first thing John is trying to get across is the fact that Jesus is God. He doesn’t start off by saying “Once there was a prophet,” or “Jesus was a brilliant thinker,” or even “Jesus was a very good man; a holy man.”  What he said was:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

So right off the bat John tells us that:

  • Jesus has ALWAYS been with God
  • Jesus IS God
  • Jesus CREATED everything
  • Jesus is LIFE and that life is our light

This is absolutely astounding to contemplate. That God is the creator of all the universe. A vastness too great for even the most brilliant human mind to fully grasp, was created by the mind and will of the living God and he holds it all in the palm of his hand. That Jesus IS God, and the humble Jewish carpenter who knew what it was to be tired and hungry and abused, is the one who made us all. King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No wonder the Bible says that

…every knee will bow, in heaven, on earth, and beneath the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  – Philippians 2:10-11

It’s why I could never become a follower of Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, Hinduism, or any other religion. Their gods are too small. What their versions of eternity are, are pathetic. Correct me if I’m wrong, but here’s what I know about some of these religions:

• Mormons think God used to be a man but worked his way up until he got to rule his own planet, and he is just one god among many. They think that Jesus is just one of the many spirit-children of this little planetary god. He didn’t save us from all our sins, we still have to rely on works, the cross definitely isn’t the center of history (ever seen a cross in a Mormon church?), and except for the few lucky men who get to be gods themselves the best we can hope for in eternity is one of three levels of country club pleasantness. As far as I understand it, the lucky women who get to attend to the planetary gods spend all eternity as breeding machines.

• Jehovah’s Witnesses think that Jesus is an angel, a created being. His death on the cross wasn’t sufficient to atone for all our sins and restore us into right relationship with God. We have to go house to house and whatever to earn points. From what I’ve read in the Watchtower magazines that JWs have left with me, the best we can hope for in eternity is some kind of Ozzie and Harriet suburbia. Nice house, nice job, nice life.

• Islam sees Jesus as a prophet. Not God. He didn’t die on the cross, he didn’t save us from our sins, and he can’t hold a candle to their prophet. Islam is totally works based; your good deeds need to outweigh your bad deeds, and on the last day Allah can send you to hell, anyway, if he wants. He can also cover up some sins and multiply good deeds if he wishes, but we have no assurance of his love or salvation. Heaven is a sensual paradise for men and the best women can hope for is to be good servants of their husbands. 

• I don’t really understand Hinduism but it does seem to revolve around multiple reincarnations until we finally get it right and then achieve whatever their idea of heaven is. Being one with everything and everything in us? It sounds like a total loss of identity to me. 

• Atheists claim they don’t believe in God or any kind of afterlife, but I have to wonder why they spend so much time thinking about a God they don’t believe in and why they’re usually so angry about it.

Now I know I’ve oversimplified these theologies and I’m scarcely an expert in Christianity, let alone any other religion. But what I do know is that they all are totally stifling in the end. I don’t want a nice little life. I don’t want to indulge in sensual pleasures forever. I don’t want to be pumping out babies forever. I would soon rage and rail against all of these things. I would be screaming for escape from these different versions of Hell.

I want unbridled JOY. I want to know the unsurpassable ecstasy of being in the very presence of the Almighty, Eternal, One True Living God of the universe. The God who created me and loved me so much he became human like me, paid the penalty for my sins, rescued me from death and hell, and fixed the relationship that I broke by rebelling against him. I want to be with Jesus, my creator and my redeemer. I want to worship him, adore him, love him, enjoy him, have fun with him, get lost in him. 

If you’ve ever been head over heels in love, I think that is just a tiny taste, a shadow, of the great Love we were all meant for.

The gods of these religions are too small, too dull, too petty. I want the real thing.

…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, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  – Romans 10:9-13

 

What is Peace

C5C35B26-E95E-4E0E-A3B1-104BBB923A64Why do I hate this perfectly lovely picture of Jesus? In a minute.

The world is descending into chaos. My life is chaos. Not just because of the insanity we are all  living in, or because I am embroiled in any particular dramas at the moment. Mostly, it’s just because of the nonstop noise that goes on inside my head. I’m always working on about 15 tracks at once. All my life I’ve wondered if there is something wrong with me or if I’m not really saved because I don’t feel that incredible peace that people say comes over them once they give their lives to Christ. 

Maybe I’m the only one, but the thing with my brain is it doesn’t let me rest in the moment. When I’m working at my job I’d rather be anywhere else. When I’m doing something else I think I should be catching up on my job. If I’m trying to write, I think I should be doing the laundry, or vacuuming, or making a shopping list, or writing something else. If I’m working in my yard I think I should use the time to get some writing done, or some housework. When I’m out walking with the dogs I’m thinking about my endless list of chores, or fretting about the state of the world, or remembering that kid in grade school who said that really rude thing that one time. It goes on forever. My only respite comes when I get totally absorbed in a project – writing, drawing, praying, digging in the dirt – and that only ever happens after at least 30 minutes of fighting against the voices in my head telling me I should be doing something else. 

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I just want peace. Not this constant, nagging anxiety. 

So why do I hate this ubiquitous, horrendous, awful, stinking excuse for a painting that I have hated since I was seven years old? Well, not only did they make Jesus a woman with a beard, with those overly effeminate features, and make him whiter than a lily and nothing like a first century Jew, but most of all they gave him the worst expression. Maybe it is supposed to demonstrate the peace of Christ, but all I see is a simpering blankness. A dead-eyed stare that reminds me more of the devil than of Jesus.

Being a Christian is hard work. We’re attacked in one way or another almost every day. Not just the actual persecution that heroic Christians face in places like North Korea, China, Pakistan and Iran, but everyday torments like the nonstop noise in my head. Or petty little nothings that go wrong and make you blow your stack and curse like a sailor and break things. The constant temptations to become either a Pharisee or a flaming hypocrite. Wanting to be like Jesus more than anything, to know and live and most of all SHARE his peace, but to blow it every single freaking day of your miserable life. To be a Martha when you just want to be a Mary. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, PEACE . . . (Gal 5:2)

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

And the PEACE of God, which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

The Lord blesses his people with PEACE. (Psalm 29:11)

You [God] will keep in perfect PEACE those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

PEACE I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

These verses can give me more anxiety than peace. “Oh my god! I don’t feel peaceful! I’m a bad Christian! Maybe I’m not even a Christian at all! Oh Noooooooooooo!”

Yet, underneath the Hot Mess soup that is my life, there IS something. I don’t have “peace” like someone in a lotus positioning chanting “Om” and feeling their oneness with the universe. But there is a knowing, deep within me. An understanding that God is true and trustworthy. His word is trustworthy. He’s proven that time and time again in history and also in my own life. Things are going to pan out the way the Bible says so. We may be living in the last days right now, which is terrifying (because a LOT of bad stuff is going to happen in those days even if the pre-Trib position is true), but also comforting because we know that Christ wins in the end. And if I don’t ever get that feeling of utter calm and tranquility in this world, I will one day. So there is a peace in that, an undercurrent of real peace and calm that is always there even though the river is raging above.

Anyway, this started out to be an explanation of why I’ve been all over the place and not going through the NT the way I said I would way back in January. But I’m working on getting more focused and tomorrow I am going to dive headfirst into the Gospel of John. 

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….Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord [Jesus] will be saved. (Romans 10:9-13)

Two Wills in the Universe

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One more tree will fall
   How strong the growing vine
Turn the earth to sand
   And still commit no crime
How one thought will live
   Provide the others die . . .
– John Lodge

Trying to make sense of the madness around us today, we should ask what is at the root of it all. Is the anarchy evil, or actually good at its core? 

The Bible (Galatians 5:22-23) describes the fruits of the Spirit (godliness) as:
LOVE
Joy
PEACE
Patience
KINDNESS
Goodness
Faithfulness
Gentleness
SELF CONTROL

On the flip side, the fruits of the sinful nature, or wickedness (Galatians 5:19-21) are:
Sexual immorality
Impurity
Debauchery
Idolatry
Witchcraft
HATRED
DISCORD
Jealousy
FITS OF RAGE
Selfish Ambition
DISSENSIONS
FACTIONS
Envy
Drunkenness
Orgies, etc.

We can meditate on these things and figure out the answer to today’s problems for ourselves.

The fruits of the Spirit and the fruits of wickedness showcase the two wills in the universe — the will of God and the will of the self.

Satan was the first to set his own will against the will of God. He said:
I WILL ascend to Heaven;
I WILL raise my throne above the stars of God.
I WILL sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost
heights of the sacred mountain.
I WILL ascend above the top of the clouds;
I WILL make myself like the Most High!
– Isaiah 14:13-14

In contrast, Jesus said, in the garden on the night he was betrayed:
Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; Yet not my will, but Thine be done. 
     – Luke 22:42

Satan, or Lucifer, beautiful cherub though he may once have been (see Ezekiel 28), is only a creature, made by the very Lord he wants to destroy. He is not God. He is a Creator of nothing. Yet he thinks he deserves to be God and wants to rule the universe. He cares for no one and nothing except himself. 

Jesus IS God (John 1:1). He made us (John 1:3). He has the right to rule the universe and subjugate us to his will. Yet his attitude is the opposite of Satan’s:

[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but rather emptied himself, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!  – Philippians 2:6-8

There are only two wills in the universe. All of us are on one side or the other. There is no neutral ground. Our nature without Christ is the sin nature — rage, jealousy, hatred, envy, lust, etc. Whatever goodness we might know comes not from ourselves, but from God, whether we are believers or not:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” – James 1:17

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteousness.” – Matthew 5:45

Once we belong to Christ, the Holy Spirit begins His work in us and we can know the joy of living in the gifts of the Spirit — Love. Joy. Peace. Kindness. Goodness. In Jesus alone is everything that our aching and dying hearts are crying out for and everything that this ugly, unhappy, violent world sorely lacks.

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 everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  – Romans 10:9-13

Sibling Rivalry, 1st-Century Style

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As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:38-41

A friend and I had an argument a long time ago over this story. I’m Mary all the way and she was 100% Team Martha. I was the right one, of course. I mean, honestly! Jesus himself is in the room, teaching. What else is there to be done but listen to him? None of these people were in imminent danger of starving to death. If Martha had chosen to sit and listen like Mary did, then once Jesus was done talking how long would it have taken to knock together some pita and beans? 

Jesus chides Martha, but very gently. Did he feel sad for her? Martha wasted a rare opportunity to just be with Jesus. She was obsessed with something that would be forgotten the minute it was over. Mary, on the other hand, has a memory she will treasure throughout eternity.

People sometimes imagine where in history they would go if they had a time machine. The very first place for me would be right there, that day, that little house in Bethany. Sitting like Mary, just drinking Jesus in.

To be fair to Martha, when Lazarus dies it is Martha who shows the most faith in Jesus, not Mary. So I wonder if she took the lesson of that day to heart.

This story also illustrates Jesus’ view of women. None of the Pharisees of that day would have allowed a woman to sit right in with the men and listen to a rabbi. Women were little more than chattel then, treated much as women in Shariah-ruled countries are today. 

Finally, the story gives us another glimpse of God’s character, of what he values. I think he longs to enjoy just being with us. That day, Jesus and Mary gave us all a glimpse of what our relationship with God is supposed to be like.