Category Archives: Truth

About Face

Self check-out stands in the grocery store have been designed to make me feel stupid.  It seems I wind up doing something wrong every time.  And then the machine calls the attendant over to help out the stupid guy.  Everybody else looks over to see the dunce, who pushed the wrong button and screwed up the process.  Last time, I got successfully all the way through and then put my card in backwards.  Red lights flashed as I waited for the teenaged clerk to show me what to do. It would be nicer if the machine quietly said, “Turn your card around and try again.”  

If you have been doing wrong thing and are stuck, it feels so good to find out what really works.  Remember that, the next time you pull when the door says push.  Remember this, too:  changing your course of action because you learn what works is basically what the word “repent” means.  Repent is a happy word.  “Repent” is how you find the solution to a puzzle, the correct turn when you are lost and the real way to approach God.  The way that works.

We hear “repent” angrily shouted by some red-faced, judgmental religious guy.  We hear the word, repent, and think we should cower in shame.  Nope.  Repent means to change your understanding and try something that works.  We humans have been stumbling, pell-mell, down the road of religion in the wrong direction.   When Jesus came, He knew that would never work.  The first word in His first message was repent.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”   (Matthew 4:17)
To say it another way, “Hey guys, turn around; come this way!”  

Steadfast

You had to bang on the pipes if you wanted hot water at certain times of the day in our first apartment​  Outrageous, since we paid all of $40 a month for this 5 flight walk-up. But it was frustrating because it seemed the flow of water was always interrupted at the most inconvenient times.

Psalm 103 says that God’s love and mercy are steadfast.  Think about that word. When you desperately need to experience love, it can come from no greater source than Almighty God.  And steadfast means, no matter what is going on in your life, you don’t need to bang on the pipes.

Here is a sample:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.  (Psalm 103:11-13)

Condemned to Hell?

“Yes, I do!”

That is what Russell Vought should have answered.  But, he can be excused for trying to deflect the question, because it was outrageous and unconstitutional.  Bernie Sanders, asked the nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget if he believed non-Christians are condemned to Hell. When Vought replied that, as a Christian, he believed Jesus was central to salvation, Bernie said he therefore was unfit for the office, that he was “not someone this country was supposed to be about.”

Leaving aside the issue that the Constitution forbids such a religious test as a qualification for office, and the question of whether he would have asked a similar question of a Muslim, it is troubling that Sanders implied Christians would discriminate against those who are so condemned.  We are called, instead, to love, serve, sacrifice and possibly die for them.  Perhaps Bernie has seen the John 3:16 signs behind the goal posts, but he obviously has no understanding of the heart of Jesus, revealed in what He said.

Here are Jesus’ own words:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.   (John 3:16-18)

Jesus stood before a government official who grilled Him about His fitness – not to serve in government but to live.  In that setting, Jesus said this:

For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the worldto bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”  (John 18:37)

Do you believe Jesus spoke the truth?  Bernie won’t be the last person to misunderstand or accuse.  How would you answer?

Now What?

On the day after Resurrection Day, it might be good to reflect on how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus actually changes the way we live.  Do they make a difference or do we simply put the plastic eggs back in the closet and go back to the humdrum of life?  If you are still reading, no doubt you vote for them making a difference.  But what sort of a difference?  Read through what Peter wrote – slowly and thoughtfully – and you’ll have a pretty good answer:

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.  (1 Peter 1:17-21)

Why This Friday is Good

“Move that bus!”  The impoverished family gapes to see a newly remodeled home, filled with improvements to make their lives better.  If you’ve seen “Extreme Makeover, Home Edition,” you remember the tears of amazement and joy.  But as the family tours the home, as excited as they may have been, for the breadwinner, in the back of their minds is the gathering fear, “What if I can’t keep this job and we miss a few payments?  I could easily lose this place…”  But occasionally, just before the show signed off, Ty Pennington would say, “Oh, there’s just one more thing…” and some charitable organization would present the family with a check, paying off their mortgage in full.

In a scenario like that, a family that had experienced life as a daily struggle, would then be able to move into their new home and find rest, secure in the realization their greatest obligation of debt had been paid off by someone else.  That is, if they trusted the check was real, accepted it and cashed it.

Today we remember that, on the Cross, Jesus Christ paid our full obligation of debt, with His own blood, forever.  As Isaiah foretold,

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.  (Isaiah 53:5-6)

If we trust Him, and accept His payment on our behalf, we will be received into God’s family (John 1:12-13), enter into His rest (Hebrews 4:3), secure in the realization that our obligation has been fully paid.  Forever.

 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.* 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.  (Ephesians 1:5–7). New Living Translation

Life and Light

 

Remember how they began “Raiders of the Lost Ark”?  The huge ball?  Bam!  Hold on to your seats, folks, this isn’t “The Sound of Music.”  John opened his book about Jesus like that.  Bam!  He said, “Jesus is God and always has been, even back at the beginning of everything.”  Before you can recover from that, he says, “Jesus created everything that exists.”  And then, having loosened us up with those wild declarations, this:

In him was life,..  (John 1:4a)

Maybe you are thinking, “Well, duh, I’m alive, too and just about everybody else I know.”  But John didn’t say Jesus was alive but that He had life in Him.  A different kind of life, but one we all were designed to have.  So, what kind of life and light is John talking about?

Jesus said:

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.   (John 6:6a)

In Him was Spiritual Life, the life of God’s Spirit.  God warned Adam, In the Garden of Eden, not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  He said, “…for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  (Genesis 2:17b)  But when Adam and Eve ate from that tree, their bodies and minds (or souls) did not die.  What died was their intimate connection with God, the connection that is made possible through His Spirit.  Without that Spirit, mankind was spiritually dead, disconnected from God and living in darkness.

But when Jesus came, He had the Spirit; “…in Him was life…”  Which would be of no importance to us, except for what John wrote next:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  (John 1:4)

Jesus came with the Spirit, to bring us life and light.  Without the Spirit of God, we live in darkness, a kind of spiritual blindness.

The light shines in the darkness  (John 1:5a)

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  (John 1:9)

Something is missing from our human existence and experience.  We sense that lack, that emptiness.  What’s missing is God’s Spirit, from Whom comes true, full life and light.  Jesus came to give us this Spirit.  But, how can we get it; how can we receive this life and light?

More on that next time.

 

The One Who Knows

John called Jesus “The Word,”  which meant he knew Jesus fully embodied the mindset or logos of God. [For more on that, read the  previous post.] In other words, Jesus knows what God knows and understands reality as God does.  And then John added:

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  (John 1:3)

In one of the most astonishing assertions in Scripture,  John said his Friend, Jesus, the One Who came from just up the road in Nazareth –  that man created everything!!!   Now, John was a fisherman, a regular guy.  I’m pretty sure he knew how outlandish this sounded.  But Jesus must have fully convinced him about His role in Creation.  Perhaps He told John, “Back in Genesis, when God said, ‘Let us make man in our image…’ (Genesis 1:26), He was speaking to Me.”  We don’t know for sure.  But we do know this astonishing truth is repeated in Scripture.

yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.   (1 Corinthians 8:6)

…For by him [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.   (Colossians 1:16)

Therefore, if Jesus made everything, He undoubtedly understands how it all works more fully that we do.  When I try to fix a problem with my computer, lots of times I make it worse because I don’t fully understand how it works.  But the engineer who designed and built it would know perfectly what each part does and why.  His “logos” with respect to computers, would be more accurate than mine, and would more easily be able to fix what was wrong.

If you follow that, see how it fits with this teaching of Jesus:

“…  If you abide [if you live your life] in my word [in my logos =  if you fully adopt My way of understanding how all reality works], … you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”   (John 8:31b -32 excerpts with my added explanation of terms)

When you can’t fix something because you don’t understand it, you get all knotted up with frustration, doubt and anger.  But if someone shows you what to do, it feels as though you have become released from all that tension.  You relax.  That’s why Jesus also said:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  learn from me,… and you will find rest for your souls.”   (Matthew 11:28-29 excerpts)

It’s good to get to know the One Who really knows…