Category Archives: Truth

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…

 

As Good as His Word

When I watch basketball, mostly what I see are the shots and whether or not they go in.  The rest is a blur.  Players obviously are aware of more, but they too, in the midst of the hustle and bang, can’t really know what’s happening as a whole.  Coaches really “see” the game.  From their vantage point they can see things the players cannot.  From years of training and experience, they understand things about the flow of the game that are invisible to the casual spectator.  Beyond that, they know each of the players’ strengths, weaknesses and habits.  Coaches see what’s going on with  whole different level of understanding.

Jesus “sees” all of reality much more completely and accurately than any of us.  He sees all that is happening and knows all that has happened through the lenses of God the Father.  He understands the big picture as it flows from Creation to Perfection.  He knows all the “players,” our strengths and weaknesses and what has been happening in each of our lives.  How He understands reality therefore, is very different from us folks who can only see for a short time through a very limited knothole in the fence.  The way someone “sees” shapes his mindset and understanding of  reality.  This mindset or frame of reference is what Greek philosophers called one’s “logos.”   Our logos shapes how we understand everything.  You can see why logos gave rise to the word logic.   There is no good English word for logos.  It is most frequently translated as “word.”  Pretty clumsy, that.  “Word” does not come close to the full meaning of logos.  

That’s why this familiar verse is frequently misunderstood:

In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Instead of thinking, “word,” a combination of letters, think, “mindset” or “understanding of reality.”  And not just any old mindset, but THE mindset, God’s mind  God’s way of understanding reality as it really is.  Jesus, this says, embodies God’s true Logos.  In the beginning, before Creation, Jesus was The Logos.  That is to say, He existed with God in the beginning because He was God in the beginning.

When a coach calls a time out, it’s usually to give the players his perspective on what is happening in the game and instructions on how to adapt.  His logos gives them valuable insight as they head back out to the frantic action of the game.  In Jesus, God has called us to the sidelines.  He says, In all the hubbub of life, you’ve gotten a distorted idea.  I want you to really know what’s happening.  Here is My Son, Who has been with Me since the beginning.  Listen to Him; He knows; He has the right logos.  So much so, He is the Logos.

I give you My Word.

His Own Words

Time Magazine will tell you nobody really knows much about Jesus.  They and other print and broadcast media use skepticism about Jesus to pump up their ratings just before Resurrection Day.  They may not know Who Jesus is, but He does.  Here is some of how He described Himself:

John 6:33-35

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 8:12

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:23

He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John 8:24

I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

John 8:58

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (Note: “I Am” is the Name of God.)

 

John 9:39

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

John 10:30

“I and the Father are one.”

John 10:36-38

“…do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

John 14:9

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 

Mar 14:61 — Mar 14:62

But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

There’s more.  Much more.  But, of course, none of that matters unless you are willing to accept that Jesus wasn’t lying.

Weaker Equals

Women are weaker than men.  I know, you’re not supposed to say that out loud and I realize there are some women stronger than some men.  But in general, women are weaker.  If you don’t realize women have certain differences in how they have been designed, you have not been paying sufficient attention.   BUT…  weaker does not mean lesser.  That’s why Peter writes:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.  (1 Peter 3:7)

Instead of belittling a wife who is weaker, a husband is to treat her with understanding and honor.  Understanding because she may not be able to lift that end of the sofa.  Honor, because she is not lesser in her weaker make up.  I own a guitar and a case for it.  The case is stronger than the guitar and is used to protect it.  When I play music, I have discovered that the case doesn’t sound as good as the guitar.  The guitar makes beautiful music precisely because it was designed to be weaker.  Weaker is not lesser.

Moreover, Peter reminds husbands that their wives are equals.  They are heirs of God’s grace, just as their husbands are.  Weaker is not lesser, it’s just different.  Different but equal.

But, what’s all this about mistreating a wife hindering prayers?  When we pray to God, we ask Him to treat us in ways we do not deserve.  We cannot ask God for grace while at the same time failing to treat our wives with the honor and respect they do deserve.  They may be weaker, but they are equal.

PS – Having witnessed the delivery of my children, I have seen that women are stronger than men in some amazing and necessary ways!

Just sayin’….

Strong Offense

In the cartoon, “Cathy,” she says to herself, “I won’t go to the store.”  Then, “Well, I’ll drive by the store but not go in.”  And, “I’ll go in but not near the candy counter.”  Followed by, “Ok, I can walk past the candy counter but I won’t buy anything.”  And then, “I’ll buy but I won’t eat.”  And, finally, “Eat! Eat! Eat!”

It’s never safe to see how close we can get to temptation without giving in to it.  We don’t do that with rattle snakes or grizzly bears; don’t do it with the things that have defeated us in the past.   Instead, we mount a good defense, staying clear-minded and watchful for any danger.  (Scroll down to the previous post for more on that.)  However, it’s not enough to simply steer clear of temptation.  We also need to be ready with a good offense when temptation does not steer clear of us.

Here’s what Peter wrote about that:

Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  (1 Peter 5:8-9)

While we don’t want to go looking for trouble, when it comes, we do not need to run in fear.  Jesus taught:

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  (John 8:34-36)

After the Civil War, many of the freed slaves were afraid to leave their masters, because they weren’t sure the news of their freedom was really true.  If we don’t know for sure that Satan no longer enslaves us, we will likely cave in the face of his temptations.  Instead, Peter teaches, Resist him, firm in your faith.”  Call Satan’s bluff:  “I don’t have to obey you any more; I’ve been set free by Jesus.”

It also helps to know that we do not struggle alone.  When Peter writes, “knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world,”  he invites us to consider ourselves members of a team, engaged in a mighty struggle together.  If we know we are not alone, that others are wrestling with the same issues as we are, it becomes easier to resist in a courageous way.

There’s more.  We don’t have to fight alone.  Next time, real, practical help is on the way!

The Whole Truth

Why did so many Christian churches not speak out against the injustices of the Nazi regime?  Fear, maybe, of persecution or simply a decline in offerings?  Wanting to ride the wave of popularity and power?  Perhaps it was easier to tell people what they wanted to hear?  Who knows?  But that disgraceful failure is one of the more dangerous consequences of picking and choosing from the Bible what seems convenient to believe.

Today, the same failure is routinely practiced in churches.  It’s no mystery why churches that only preach what people want to hear are wildly popular.  But God said,

“…prophets and priests alike,
all practice deceit.
They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
“Peace, peace,” they say,
when there is no peace.”   (Jeremiah 8:10b-11)

Imagine going to the doctor with a gangrenous wound, hoping it’s not serious.   The doctor knows you are worried, so he says, “This is no big deal; we’ll just put a band-aid on it.”  Inconceivable, but precisely what has been done, far too often,  by people entrusted with the truth of God’s Word.  Paul warned Timothy not to be tempted by the strong pull of popular opinion and desire.  He said:

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

If you haven’t found one yet, look for a church that delivers “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

Blinders

If you are lost and pull out a map, do you ignore the parts of the map that don’t fit with where you think you are?  Of course not.  If you did, you’d still be lost.  If you are typing in an internet address, do you decide for yourself which letters are really necessary, skipping the others?  Doesn’t work so well, right?

Which parts of the Bible are trustworthy and which parts are not?  The Jesus Seminar presumed to decide that question, as it pertained to the sayings of Jesus.  They black-balled a good portion of the Gospel accounts.  For example, in their lofty wisdom, they declared Jesus never said, “I am the way and the truth and the life…”  On what basis?  They began with the assumption that Jesus would never have referred to Himself.  In other words, they crossed out everything from the Gospels that did not conform to their own ideas.  It is no surprise that the portion of the New Testament they found to be authentic closely resembled their own thinking.  And was very short.

If you come to the Bible unprepared to let it challenge you and change you, it won’t.  If you ignore everything you disagree with, what’s left will simply look a lot like you.  God spoke about that kind of audacity through His prophet, Jeremiah:

“‘How can you say, “We are wise,
for we have the law of the Lord,”
when actually the lying pen of the scribes
has handled it falsely?
The wise will be put to shame;
they will be dismayed and trapped.
Since they have rejected the word of the Lord,
what kind of wisdom do they have?   (Jeremiah 8:8-9)

 

 

 

The Meaning of Meaninglessness

Here’s a special treat.  In the last several posts we have chewed on Ecclesiastes, but how can we scoop its message all together?  It seems so full of contradictions – just like you!  Scholars have tried for centuries to make sense of it.  But, Ecclesiastes is about real life, real life that throws curve balls.  Recently, my son sent me a wonderful You Tube about Ecclesiastes.  These guys really get it.  I couldn’t summarize the book any better.  Check it out.  But do yourself a favor and wait for a moment when you can really watch and listen.  It begins with a short Hebrew song and then goes way deep.   Click HERE.

But wait, there’s more!  No, not steak knives…    This same group produced a beautiful song based on the teachings of Ecclesiastes.  You’ll find it HERE.

And, If you missed this short series, the first one is found HERE.

Grace and peace.