Tag Archives: Christianity

Says Who?

After 30 years, now it’s safe to eat eggs.  The experts were wrong. Of course, the experts used to think tomatoes were poisonous, too.  Nope, it’s Lima beans that are poisonous; ask any kid.  You can’t always trust the experts.  Expert publishers rejected the novels of John Grisham (16 times!).  Expert physicists rejected the theories of Einstein.  And expert religious leaders rejected Jesus.

Of course, God saw that coming.  He created us humans and knows how we tend to think we know all the answers.  Hundreds of years before Jesus, He inspired these words:

“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone [or cornerstone – same word]; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:22-23 – with my explanation)

Jesus quoted that line to challenge religious leaders who had rejected Him.  He is the cornerstone of the Kingdom of God, the foundation stone upon which everything else in God’s Kingdom is built.  God has done this, not “the builders.”  Not the experts.  God’s Kingdom is still growing.  Every human kingdom ultimately collapses for want of a strong “cornerstone.”

We still have experts today – leaders, judges, officials, scholars – who choose to build without regard to the “Cornerstone.”  Inevitably, what they build is not so “marvelous.”

“[But]…this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.” (Isaiah 28:16b)

Be careful who you trust.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Urgent Prayer

ISIS continues to slaughter, enslave or exile thousands of Christians.  Last night’s “60 Minutes” broadcast featured interviews with some Christians from Mosul, Iraq, who can trace their local churches back almost 2000 years.  Now, all signs of Christian faith there are being destroyed by ISIS thugs.  It is horrifying and heart-wrenching.

This morning, as I was reading Psalm 69, I began to pray its phrases back to the Lord on behalf of my brothers and sisters in that region.  David, who was no stranger to violent opposition, used the imagery of flood waters as a metaphor.  Here is a brief sample:

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me…” (Psalm 69:1-4a)

Would you please also pray?  I find it helpful to use psalms as prayers, especially when I am so stunned by events, as I am by these, that it is hard to find the words.  We are invited to join in the conflict through prayer.  The plight of the Middle Eastern Christians is severe but I am certain their suffering is being used by God.  He is not surprised and will not be defeated by evil.  Even in persecution and death, these faithful ones bear witness to God’s salvation and grace.

Pray for them as David prayed:

“May those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me, O Lord, the Lord Almighty; may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me, O God of Israel.” (Psalm 69:6)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Here is the link for the 60 Minutes story  –   http://www.cbsnews.com/news/iraq-christians-persecuted-by-isis-60-minutes/

What Corrupts Government

Two words explain the root of what is wrong with our government.  You thought I was going to say Republican and Democrat.  Sorry…   Good guess, but those aren’t the two I was thinking of.  And it’s not just our government.  These two words define the problem with every system of government.  Which two?  Selfish ambition.  The reason governments don’t work well is that those who gravitate to positions of authority over others tend to be people who are ambitious and selfish.  Of course I’m not talking about your favorite leader.  But I am talking about the majority of those who claw their way up into positions of influence and power.  Consider this:

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:14-16)

In the United States, our leaders are supposed to represent and serve the people.  Too often they behave as though the people are supposed to serve them.  But the same root problem exists in repressive dictatorships.  The people who manage to get to the top tend to be self-centered and driven.  That’s not the kind of personality that works best to govern.

Imagine if our governments were filled with people who were described like this:

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. “ (James 3:17-18, NIV)

Next time you start thinking about someone in government, take a moment to pray for her or him.  Ask God to fill them with those qualities which are developed from within by His Spirit, and to protect them from the destructive attitudes of the world.  Then pray, “Thy Kingdom come…”

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


Real Wisdom

See if  you can identify who said this:

“Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”

That’s a quote from Albert Einstein.  Arguably one of the most intelligent scientists to have ever lived, Einstein was humbled by his awareness of a vastly superior “Spirit.”  It’s been said that those who know the most are humble because they realize just how much they don’t know.  People who know less, frequently become cocky with the idea that they’ve got it all figured out.  Real wisdom comes packed in a life that is free of arrogance.

” Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13)

Bible Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Einstein Quote: http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/einstein/

Dealing with Fear

Be afraid; be very afraid!  That’s the message of the news shows on TV.  The more you worry, the better they like it, because worry drives their profit.  What do you worry about?  What keeps you awake at night?  Do you have an answer, something specific?  Me too.  If you would like to worry less, here’s a good word:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,” (Psalm 46:1-2)

Whoever wrote those words was living at a time when it was frequently necessary to grab a sword and run out to chop and slash murderous attackers,  It’s hard to imagine what that must have been like.  I’d have been pretty jumpy.  Maybe we have it comparatively easy, but worry can still harass us.   Whatever it is that worries you, let those truths soak in and do their work.

And this:

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

An Important Person

He’s brilliant but has always suffered from mild brain damage.  He reads and retains books on lofty, intellectual subjects far beyond my capacity but works as a busboy in a nursing home.  I bumped into him at the store and he was telling me about one of the patients who has Alzheimer’s.  She helps herself to everyone else’s leftovers while he is bussing the tables.  He stopped and thought deeply for a moment and then said, “You know, she is every bit as important as either of us…”

I love it when God speaks through His people. He reminds us that His ways are not like the ways of the world.  Like this:

” My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

The Costliest Gift

Hammacher Schlemmer offers a slot car race track for $125,000!  I wonder who will be getting one of those for Christmas.  What is the most extravagant gift you have ever received?  How about the most extravagant gift you have ever given?  What did it cost?

Chances are pretty good that you have a Christmas card, sitting in the pile, that contains these words:

“For to us a child is born…” (Isaiah 9:6a)

The hope and joy expressed in those prophetic words make them a favorite for the makers of Christmas cards.  Isaiah knew Who was coming and wrote those words 700 years before they came to pass.  But the familiarity of those words might obscure the angst of the next phrase:

“…to us a son is given…”    (Isaiah 9:6b)

Brand new parents are fun to watch because they barely touch the ground.  They radiate joy and excitement and intense possibility.  But, as I remember well, a new father becomes instantly protective in a fierce way.  He is possessed by an instinctive and powerful readiness.   It’s like a one man Secret Service detail.  I cannot imagine what it would take to willingly give a newborn son.  The young mothers who give up their newborn babies for adoption, do so at unspeakable cost.  I honor them as heroes.  Perhaps they, more than any other, know how to read this phrase:

“…to us a son is given…”

The Father gave His only Son – gave Him to you and me – knowing from eternity past how that Gift would be eventually rejected and mistreated.  Amazing love…

“…to us a son is given…”   

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

What to Look For

If there is a puddle under a used car, don’t buy it.  Same thing with suspicious-looking paint jobs.  But how can you “kick the tires” on a church?  How can you tell if a church really represents Jesus in a true way?  You have heard horror stories about dysfunctional churches; how can you avoid the bad ones and find the good ones?  Here is one thing to look for:  How high and mighty is the pastor?  How closely does the pastor live by these words of Jesus?

“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Jesus not only commanded His followers to adopt the heart of a servant toward one another, He demonstrated this attitude by His own act of sacrifice.

If you notice a pastor who expects to be treated with special privilege, who struts about with an air of superiority, you can be pretty sure that church is in bad shape.  It may look all nice and shiny, but there is something essentially wrong at its core.  Pastors who know Jesus and follow him will show it by their humbleness and readiness to serve.  The same is true for the rest of the congregation, but it is easier to notice by observing the pastor.

Sadly, this one test is one many, many churches would fail.  But, when you shop for used cars, most of those should be avoided, too.  Not every church is a place Jesus attends.  Don’t overlook this telltale sign.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Hand in Hand

You have seen him: He’s just caught the game-winning touchdown pass and now he stands in the end zone, his arms raised and his hands lifted up to receive the adulation of the crowd.  His face says, “That’s right, I’m the greatest!”  Picture him.  Now compare ???????????????????????????????him with this little boy, also with his arm extended, but this time with his hand holding tight to the hand of his father because the waves are so high.  (http://annmareebeaman.com/)

You’ve seen him, too, perhaps as he goes into the schoolyard for the first time, or approaches the lions’ cage at the circus, holding onto Dad’s hand.  Two boys with their arms held high: Who is the greatest?

” At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4)

In our world, we think that the greatest is the strongest, the most gifted, the richest, the coolest, the most famous, the most powerful, the guy with his arm raised up in the end zone.  Jesus said that guy doesn’t even make the cut for the Kingdom of Heaven – that is, unless he changes and becomes like a little child!  But like a little child in what respect?  In humbling himself.  

A child knows he needs help, that he can’t succeed on his own, so he reaches up and takes the hand of his father.  When it comes to entering the Kingdom of Heaven, becoming a child of God and attaining eternal life, we need to begin by realizing we cannot do this on our own. To do so on our own would require absolute perfection, from the moment of our birth until we die.  Impossible.  We need to reach up and take hold of the Hand of the Only One Who can accomplish it, Who can open the door to the Kingdom of Heaven.  When we reach out for His hand, we change from the world’s “can-do,” arrogant attitude, and adopt the humility of a child – trust and dependence.  In that position of weakness and trust, we hold on to His strength and competence.

Like Elvis sang:

Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who stilled the water
Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who calmed the sea
Take a look at yourself
And you can look at others differently
Put your hand in the hand of the man
From Galilee

(Put Your Hand in the Hand – by Gene MacLellan)
Bible quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Still Growing

When I first heard the rumor, I was skeptical.  But recent research has backed it up: Facebook is about to decline.  It was a pretty impressive run – more like an explosive flash in the pan.  But Facebook is about to follow CB radios, Hula Hoops and Bell Bottoms off into the pastures of relative obscurity.  Seems like nothing but nothing keeps on growing; every trend has its few years of popularity and then it wanes.

Everything, that is, except for the impact on the world of a homeless, itinerant teacher from the lesser regions of a conquered country the size of New Hampshire, Who was tortured to death 2000 years ago.  His followers, who originally numbered only 11, have added to their number.

Before He was crucified, Jesus made a preposterous prediction about how His “Kingdom” would grow:

” He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”” (Matthew 13:31-32)

At last count (2010), people who called themselves Christians accounted for roughly 1/3 of the world population.  That number is still growing…

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.