Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

What Is Love?

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God—for God is love”

(1st John 4:7-8, New Living Translation).

What is love? Valentine’s Day makes this a pertinent question. My favorite writer on the subject didn’t get married until he was 58, and even then it was for charitable, not romantic, reasons. C. S. Lewis, the famous author of the Narnia series of books, married Joy Davidman in a government office to provide her with British citizenship. A few months later Joy was diagnosed with cancer, and her condition deteriorated rapidly. Jack, as Lewis was known by his friends, chose to love and care for Joy. The feeling between them grew, and nearly a year after the marriage of convenience there was a hospital wedding presided over by a clergyman from the Church of England. ’Til death do we part was a potent reality. Joy left the hospital to convalesce. It was not until this point that she moved in with Jack. God worked and Joy’s cancer went into remission. Jack and Joy lived happily for three more years. Then the cancer returned and took Joy. Jack wept.

C. S. Lewis understood love as no one else whom I’ve read on the subject. At first this understanding was philosophical and academic. He wrote The Four Loves, an intelligent and insightful book describing the different types of love and their corresponding relationships. Lewis used Greek words to define each love. Agape’ is God’s unconditional gift love, exemplified in Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. Philos is the love between family and friends, which the philosopher Plato called “the milk of human kindness.” Eros is erotic or sexual love, designed by God to connect one man and one woman for life. Finally, storge’ is what we would call affection. It is found in each of the previous three loves, expressing itself appropriately in different relationships.

C. S. Lewis lived out his creed. He was unlike like the men of his day, and his perspective is entirely foreign to us today. A breakdown of the timeline of Lewis’s relationship with Joy will reveal this.

Joy was a divorced American author seeking British citizenship when her visa was not renewed. Lewis gave her his name in a civil marriage to provide this. So, Jack, as Lewis was known to his friends,  entered into a relationship with Joy because he wanted to help a friend. This is agape’ love.

A friendship had also grown between Jack and Joy as they discovered common intellectual, literary and personal interests. The friendship deepened as the two pushed through life’s struggles together. This is philos love.

After Joy’s cancer was discovered she was hospitalized. At this point, Lewis realized something he hadn’t previously. He loved this woman as a man loves no other person.  Jack determined to express love to her on another level. He decided to marry her in eyes of the church, and asked a minister of the Anglican communion to perform the ceremony in her hospital room.

Afterward, Jack brought his beloved Joy home and began to care for her in earnest. The cancer went into remission, and the two lived together as man and wife, and enjoyed several years of happiness. It is important to note that the relationship between Joy and Jack did not become romantic or sexual until after the two were married in the eyes of God. This is eros love.

In the end the cancer returned and took Joy from Jack. Lewis had written several notebooks full of personal feelings and observations during this time, and anonymously published them in the book, A Grief Observed. It was a terrible loss for him and the book presents honest observations.

It was friendship and divine compassion (philos and agape’) that drew Jack and Joy together, love that sustained them in her illness, and it was the love of God that strengthened Jack in his grief when Joy was gone.

What is love?  It is indeed a “many splendored thing,” but fundamentally love is genuine compassion for another person. Love is the commitment to act in the best interest of the beloved, regardless of self-interest. Love must be the basis for every human relationship.

So, the next time you choose a friend or a lover, ask yourself:  is this about love, or something else? Then do what is good and right and God-like: choose to love.

Overcoming Anger, a Christian View

Anger is easy. There’s a lot to be mad about: some is justified; some is not; and too much is pointless. Anger is my default emotion, my drug of choice, if you will. When I get hurt, it makes me mad. When something doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, it frustrates me and that results in anger (hence, my longstanding problem with technology). When I have to wait for something for what I feel is too long, that impatience results in anger (just experienced this with our abysmally slow internet connection). When people ignore me or reject me, it makes me angry. All of this bubbles up from the well of Pride, which is to say Original Sin. Pride expresses itself in manifold ways in different individuals, and this is an obvious way it comes out in my life.

In the Bible, James, the half-brother of Jesus and pastor of the first Jerusalem church admonishes, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). And yet, when someone cuts me off in traffic, when things don’t turn out as I expected, when I feel I am being treated unfairly, anger flairs and runs me, then ruins a portion of the day. This is wrong. Knowing that, however, doesn’t stop it from happening.

The results of human anger are devastating. Health problems may be caused or exacerbated by chronic anger. Depression is often the result of internalized anger. I may strike out in anger and injure someone physically or emotionally. Anger may even result in murder. Jesus clearly taught that anger leads that direction.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21–22, ESV)
When I’m angry with another person because of a real or perceived wrong they’ve done to me, then I have the motive which may escalate to hatred and murder. Even though I can’t imagine myself killing someone, I am guilty of harming them in my mind and I possess the motive to do harm. Slander is character assassination, so even if I wouldn’t dream of killing the target of my anger, I may very well feel no compunction about ruining their reputation.

It is likely that anger constitutes an addiction. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not attempting to turn myself into a victim of genetics, or the poor choices of my youth. Every time I erupt in anger, I am making a clear choice. I am guilty. However, that doesn’t mean it is easy to control. In fact, I’m coming to realize that, like any addiction, fighting anger is futile because I’m fighting my own will. “A house divided against itself will not stand. This is made worse by the fact that I’m fighting anger with, well, more anger. What I must do is attack the basis for all of my anger, not just fight daily skirmishes against it’s myriad outbreaks.

The command and control center for anger, and for Pride, which is its basis, is the self. More specifically, “me” striving to live apart from the manifest presence of God. We weren’t created to live apart from God, and doing so has grave consequences. Anger is one of them.

My self must come to an end. It must die. I’m not suicidal, don’t worry. I’m not talking about ending my life but about ending the self-life. This includes: selfishness, self-centeredness, selfish ambition, even self-protection, manifesting as a constant need to defend the self. However, I cannot do this alone. No addiction can be eradicated without outside help.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now Iive in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Jesus Christ came to earth to accomplish what you and I cannot alone. The Son of God took on the fullness of our humanity, lived the life we are supposed to, then took on the full weight of our sin. Then he died. I must die with him. I must be crucified with Christ. That is how the self-life comes to an end.

“If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Most importantly, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. In so doing he brought hope for a new life and a new self. Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born anew” (John 3:3). This may also be stated, “You must be born from above.” The resurrection makes that possible for everyone who will believe.

So, in order to overcome my anger, I must identify with Jesus Christ on the cross, through the grave, and in the resurrection. I must realize and remind myself daily, and even moment by moment, that I am a new creation in Christ. I have a new identity. No longer do I live my life apart from God. I’ve invited his Spirit into my innermost being, and a transformation has taken effect. I have a new nature. My thinking must agree with this reality.

When I agree with God’s Word and Spirit that I am a new person, that I have been re-created to be a “little Christ”, then the anger dissipates. It is replaced by a peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:5-6), and by a humble confidence in God.

The Cure for Moral Insanity

What can cure the moral insanity spreading through our world?

Planned Parenthood (what a misnomer) is the largest abortion provider in the nation. They promote themselves as advocates for women’s health. What they actually are is a consumer corporation profiting from women who are facing the challenge of an unwanted pregnancy. They receive half a billion dollars from our government. But that’s not enough money for this greedy corporation. They call the human being in the womb “products of conception,” and ironically, they sell body parts from aborted fetuses as products for experimentation. The Nazis also experimented on human beings for “medical purposes” and used body parts from the unwanted human beings they murdered. Why do so many continue to support this evil corporation? Supporters are people driven by emotional pleas and political correctness, voting a party line rather than admitting the truth, having compassion or being concerned about the dignity of human life. This is sick. Why aren’t the decision makers being prosecuted? The same US government that protects the egg of a bald eagle ensures permission for unborn humans to be ripped from the womb one body part at a time. This is moral insanity.

The U.S. created a power vacuum in the Middle East because of the 2003 Iraq invasion and the weary withdrawal of US troops after a decade of attempting to assist in creating a fair democracy. This vacuum is now being filled by the most evil men the world has seen since the days of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. Islamic extremists have yet to murder as many people as those dictators, but they possess the will to do so. ISIS is attempting to establish a Caliphate or religious government that wills to take over the world. They revel in spectacular executions, slavery of those who don’t believe their doctrine, rape as a form of worship and the destruction of ancient history. All of this evil is calculated to serve one goal: terrorize the world in an effort to subdue it. This is moral insanity.

ISIS butchers thousands of people, and the U.S. response has been timid and tepid. Christians are martyred like they were in the Roman Colosseum, but in place of thousands of spectators in the stands there are multiple millions of viewers on the internet. Why are their videos hosted? Why are they permitted to promote their evil? Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter could do more to shut these people out, but instead they tacitly support the evil they allow to be promoted via their networks. The news media covers ISIS in graphic detail because it draws more viewers. In so doing, CNN, MSNBC, FOX become the de facto PR team for ISIS. Terror is their tool, publicizing their activities, ideas and videos gives them the worldwide stage they desire to spread fear and horror. This is moral insanity.

The United States leads the world. The culture here is a powerful influence everywhere. Sexual immorality has become the norm in our culture. The family existed prior, not only to our government and our nation, but prior to civilization itself. It is the fundamental building block of civilization. Now that ancient institution is under sustained attack by a perverse and powerful lobby. What was once considered shameful has been institutionalized by the highest court in the land. Marriage has been universally understood to be the bond between one man and one woman. That five unelected judges changed the definition of a 5000 year old institution should be deeply disturbing to everyone. Every child needs a mother and a father. To establish a norm that deprives children of this is moral insanity. However, the problem of single parent homes did not originate within the LGBT community. In fact, fatherless homes may well be the most significant cause of the sexual confusion in which we find ourselves in today.

The ideal is that the marriage bond lasts for life. Divorce became more and more accepted in the mid 20th century. Now it is as common as marriage. The once expected standard of waiting to have sex until marriage has been replaced with rampant sexual promiscuity. Cohabitation is the norm. The internet has made pornography instantly accessible to almost anyone. It is not surprising that this fertile ground for sexual immorality has produced increased acceptance for inordinate and perverse forms of sex. Consider the popularity of the book series titled 50 Shades of Gray, wherein the rich misogynistic male protagonist gets off on treating his female partners like sex slaves, and the female protagonist enjoys such treatment. This is moral insanity.

Then there is the explosion of gun violence in the US. Why? Policy makers and politicians wring their hands, or point their fingers at one another, but fail to make any changes. The left sees this as a problem with the proliferation of guns, so they propose gun control laws. The right sees this as a problem solvable by the exercise of the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Their solution is to arm law abiding citizens. Guns merely make violence more convenient and more glamorous. I wonder how many of the same individuals who support gun control would oppose controlling the sale of violent video games to kids? Why do NRA and 2nd Amendment advocates oppose attempts to keep guns out of the hands of the untrained? Not everyone should have the right to carry a gun. The unfortunate problem is, those who choose to break the law are not going to train or get their guns registered. What we have is a social problem that is signified, and perhaps exacerbated, by guns, but not caused or resolved by guns or their removal from the hands of law abiding citizens.

The real issue was revealed by Jesus Christ when one of his disciples wanted to protect him from harm. On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemene praying when Judas Iscariot arrived with a crowd of men with swords and clubs. The traitor identified his former master with a kiss and the guards grabbed Jesus. Peter drew a sword and struck the high priest’s servant, severing his ear. Jesus healed the servant’s ear and admonished Peter saying, “Put your sword back in its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52, ESV). 

Guns are neither the problem nor the answer. The issue is in the heart of human beings, for evil comes out of the heart. In this case it is the evil of treating other persons as objects, obstacles that threaten us or stand in our way. Video games provide an apt example: when you encounter a person who threatens you or stands in the way of your progress, you typically just shoot them dead. But persons are created in God’s image. Why aren’t we bothered when human beings are treated with less respect than our pets?

This reveals an even deeper heart problem: the failure fear God, to believe in a just and loving God, who says, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay… For we must all stand before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (Romans 12:19b, 2 Corinthians 5:10).

In an unprincipled, increasingly lawless, population every person looks to himself to determine right and wrong.  The serpent promised self-determination to Eve in the Garden when he tempted her to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Eve and Adam gave in to the temptation and were cast out of God’s presence. Self-determination (apart from God) has continued as the norm of human nature throughout our history. It was exemplified during the period of Judges in Israel when the people did great evil. The explanation for that evil is found in the final verse of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

When someone rejects God as their king, they do so in order to rule over their own conscience and life (see Psalm 10:4, 14:1). They become blind to sin and evil, following the dictates of their own godless heart. “Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his own sin” (Psalm 36:1-2).

The law is for the lawless. There is a God who has created the universe the people who live in it. The universe operates according to the constant and unchangeable laws of physics, and human beings are created to live within the parameters of the the moral law, which the Creator also established. This is obvious to anyone who would bother to pay attention and pursue the evidence instead of their own agenda. “For what may be known about God is evident within them for God has made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived through what has been made, so they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). 

There are elementary moral principles present in everyone’s conscience. However, we live in a fallen world in active rebellion against those principles. This confuses people and distorts the subjective perception of truth in their consciences. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). Therefore, God made the moral law objectively plain to his people Israel on Mount Sinai. Then he sent his Son to live out the truth and offer a way for everyone to receive and live eternal life. “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ… I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 1:17, 14:6).

The cure for moral insanity today is a King and a Law. “Where there is no vision the people are unrestrained. But happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18). For people who genuinely believe in and follow the God of the Bible, there is moral sanity. However, for those who do not live their lives surrendered to God, the Law is in place to teach them right from wrong and threaten punishment for violation.
“…understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, for the effeminate and homosexuals, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 9-10).

We must encourage and reintroduce the truth of the Bible to people, in order that many may return to faith, which at its basic level is reverence for God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Next, there must be a fair and gracious application of God’s Law, which is objectively defined in the 10 Commandments. There must be legitimate and just authority in place to establish and enforce laws on this basis. These commandments teach and mandate respect for God and respect for other people.
1- You shall worship no other God, except me.
2-  You shall not make any idols.
3-  You shall not misuse my Name.
4-  Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy.
5-  Honor your father and mother.
6-  Do not murder.
7-  Do not commit adultery.
8-  Do not steal.
9-  Do not lie.
10- Do not covet.

The first four Commandments focus on God and should be left to God’s people to teach and enforce among themselves. Civil law and authorities should protect and ensure that expressions of faith in God are unhindered and unmolested, and that every person is free to worship God, or to refrain from worshipping, according to his or her conscience. Most importantly, there must be no law passed to prohibit the preaching and teaching of the Bible. That is where truth, freedom and salvation is found.

The last six commandments should form the basis for civil law. Society’s laws will need to expand upon, but should still find their basis in, these six basic commands.

Those of us who claim to believe in and follow Jesus Christ must lead the way. The following admonition reveals what will restore sanity to us.
“For the Lord has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, and love and a sound mind.”
(2 Timothy 1:7)
The word translated timidity is sometimes rendered as fear, but the lexicon helps us understand it further by defining it as: “a state of fear because of a lack of courage or moral strength” (Louw-Nida Greek lexicon). We who would claim Christ as our Lord must have the courage to live out our moral convictions. There must be no compromise with the godless values promoted and enshrined in our nation. “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). 

We must not be timid about taking a stand against the moral insanity spreading through our nation and the world, even as it becomes socially acceptable, even if we are castigated and persecuted for the stand we take. We must “speak the truth in love,” and “be ready always to give an answer for the hope that is within us, yet with gentleness and reverence” (Ephesians 4:15, 1 Peter 3:15). This is important if we ever expect to bring our nation back from the brink of moral breakdown, but it is even more important for each of us to have courage for the sake of our own moral sanity.

We do not do this alone. The Holy Spirit will fill us with courage, and will remind us of God’s words when the time comes to speak (see John 14:26 & Luke 12:11-12). So, rest; do not be anxious or afraid. Do the right thing always, and be ready to defend your moral choice by appealing to the Lord Jesus as your teacher. Do not be ashamed of the name of Jesus or of his Gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of salvation to all who believe, for the Jew first and also the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Let us pray for nothing short of a Great Awakening in this formerly great nation.

Are Christians Becoming Stupid?

“Let anyone with ears to hear listen! And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’”

(Mark 4:23-25)

Not all Christians are stupid, and I do not use the term in a derogatory way. I use it advisedly to both get your attention, and to point out that many who would claim the name Christian, who once accepted the truth of the Bible and sought to live accordingly, have now willfully chosen to eschew that knowledge in favor of many opposing views. They could hear, but have now chosen not to pay attention.

Ignorant refers to someone who simply doesn’t know, or know any better. Stupid refers to someone who knows better than, say, to do something, but charges headlong into doing it anyhow. Stupid is someone who knows the truth that sets them free and remains instead a slave. Increasing numbers of Christians are in this position because they have chosen to be shaped by a post-Christian culture instead of having minds transformed by paying attention to and applying the truth of the living and active Word of God.

Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get…

I wrote the next two paragraphs like a journal entry when I encountered Jesus words about paying attention to what you hear. You see, I need to get this.

Measure you give = how much I pay attention to the Word being spoken. Measure you get = how much truth I receive and retain. I don’t want to be like those “who are always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.

When I listen, focus, pay attention to the Word being communicated through the Scripture by the Holy Spirit, or the internal witness or conviction of the Spirit about some issue, then I will realize the truth being communicated. I will receive knowledge. Then I will act on the truth. If I do this, then I will retain what I’ve learned (remember it) and remain active in it (continue to act upon it), and I will be in position and privileged to receive more truth from the Lord. If I fail to pay attention, to believe in and act upon the truth the Holy Spirit is teaching, then I will not be given anything more. Not only that, what I’ve already learned will begin to leech away until I have nothing. I must live out what I’ve learned, and keep learning more. I must move upward and go forward and grow and change into the image of Christ, or I will fall backward and become more and more like a fallen man, who “fades into the light of common day.”

I think some of you need to understand this too…

Jesus told parables. These are “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.” In relating the reason he spoke in parables, this master teacher indicated it was in order to hide the truth from the uninitiated and those unwilling to change (see Mark 4:10-12). He explained his parables to the followers he chose. The beauty of Jesus’ parables is, they are memorable and tangible and may be recalled by anyone who has heard them even once. However, the meaning is not obvious; it requires an instructed mind, a mind taught by the Holy Spirit. This represents the Lord hiding the Truth in plain sight. The genius of the parables is, the truth remains locked up inside them ready to be revealed when the person who has heard decides to pay attention. “For him who has ears to hear, let him hear,” is a command Jesus appended to many of his parables and other teaching. It is like a zip file on a computer: that small file contains a compressed information which must be unzipped, or decompressed, in order to be understood by a user. A parable of Jesus, like that zip file, is stored in the memory of someone who has heard it. When once that person is ready to pay attention to the Holy Spirit, who is trying to speak to them and transform them, there comes a moment of serendipity (an Aha! moment) when they realize the truth (like “the moral of the story”).

Truth demands a response, a parable containing truth does not. The more people hear Truth and refuse to accept it, the harder their hearts become to it. Jesus was encountering opposition and hardening hearts when he began to use parables. Eventually, the truth must be told explicitly, without figures of speech and stories (see John 16:19-33), and the Spirit of Truth will make it plain to those who are paying attention. Are you paying attention?

If you pay attention and receive what you hear by faith, then you will learn and grow. You will be entrusted with more truth and more knowledge of God and His Word. If you do not, then even what you once had will be taken away from you. You may well fall into a horrible state of disbelief, and, well, stupidity regarding God and the Bible. You may come to a point of no return, a place where you seek to repent but cannot change your heart and mind back to the simplicity of trust in Jesus and belief in the Bible as God’s holy Word. It is pointless for me to warn anyone who has already come to such a point. Such a person will scoff, discount, ignore or argue against such a warning. I am speaking to someone who has yet to turn away, but may be tempted.

If you are being tested today, if you feel like turning away, I say come back home. Return to the beginning of your faith journey. You’ve become to wise in your own eyes. You don’t know what you think you do. The truth hasn’t changed. Jesus is the same and His love is never ending. Return to the place where you began to stray. Do what you refused to do back then. Go back to the place where you began to do what you still know is wrong, and repent. Change your thinking and change your ways, while you still can. “Night is coming when no man can work,” and no more change may be made.

Here’s a final warning from Scripture. Heed it, and don’t be stupid.

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

 If you

Gay Cakes

The provocative title is more narrow than this editorial. I’m reading all of the rhetoric about baking cakes and making pizzas, and it occurs to me that some of you, at least, are on an agenda-driven adventure of missing the point. Completely.

There are several issues here. Some are civil. Some are religious.

Civil issue 1) Should a person of faith (or no faith) be required by the state to violate their conscience? I should say not. This is precisely what has been at issue since the Obama administration began to prosecute businesses that object to paying for abortofacients (drugs or other contraceptives that cause de facto abortions to occur). This is what is at issue when a business that bakes wedding cakes, does wedding photography or rents space is required by the government to do so for those who are plainly in violation of every religions traditional view of marriage.

Civil issue 2) Should a business person with any particular viewpoint be forced to trade or service those with whom they disagree. We see signs on restaurants (and similar establishments) that stay: “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone.” Is that acceptable? Not in the broadest interpretation, but it is done all of the time, and we don’t experience a media firestorm over it. That’s because this refusal is typically for an agreed upon good reason. For example, most of us would agree with a restaurant refusing to serve someone not wearing a shirt or shoes. However, there could be a civil rights lawsuit filed if the restaurant refused to serve someone because of their race or religion. This is the generalization that the left is seeking to make concerning issue 1 above. Refusing to serve a homosexual in your restaurant is not the same as refusing to cater their wedding. Anyone may enter a restaurant, order and eat. The restaurant is not perceived as condoning the lifestyle choice of every patron. However, catering a wedding may be perceived as tacitly or actively supporting, if not the couple, homosexual marriage.

Religious issue 1) From a Christian perspective, should I do business with openly gay people, adulterers, spousal or child abusers? I’m sure many will be offended that I’ve bundled these types of people together. For the record, I do not think consensual homosexuality is harmful in the same way as spousal or child abuse. What I want you to understand is, there are some people you don’t want to do business with because of their character or lifestyle. But should you? The argument I’m hearing from a number of Christians is the standard evangelical mantra. We should do it to witness to them. I would agree, if that’s your genuine motive. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, both groups despised by the religious leadership of his day. However, Jesus was never accused of either sinning or extorting money from people (as the tax collectors were accused of doing). The Lord taught the truth and spoke honestly about the need for both the religious and the irreligious to change their thinking and change their ways. Often when a Christian does business or befriends someone who is living a lifestyle that openly defies biblical morality, we just look the other way. And that is why we have a godless nation today. Develop relationships with everyone, even those who don’t think the way you do, even those who oppose Christianity, and then openly share love, grace and truth. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before people in such a way that they see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)

Religious issue 2) Should a Christian caterer or photographer (for example) do their work for a homosexual wedding? I’m not asking whether they should have a civil right to refuse, but whether, from a biblical standpoint, this business person should participate in such an event.

No, I do not believe a Christian has any business (pardon the unintended pun) supporting something so obviously against Christian morality and the Bible, and beyond that against the time honored traditions of every civilization and religion for 5,000 years. As a minister, I would go to jail rather than officiate a homosexual wedding. Now, you may think that I shouldn’t be forced to marry a gay/lesbian couple because I am a minister in a church. The case I would make is, every Christian is a representative of Christ and every one of us are ministers. I have done videography. I would refuse to do a gay/lesbian wedding. But let’s say a homosexual couple, “married” or not, approached me to do videography for one of their children’s sporting events or birthday parties. Would I take that job. Absolutely. Look at Religious issue 1 again. If I baked cakes, would I do so for the birthday of a vocal homosexual. Again, yes… unless, they ordered some sort of sexually explicit decoration (which I would refuse to do for a heterosexual as well).

Christian friends, you need to stop allowing the culture to make up your mind about these issues. You must stop being swayed by the opinions of your friends and relatives. As a disciple of Jesus I am shaped by his teaching, the Gospel, the Word of God, which is in the Christian canon of the Bible. Speak the truth in love, and love the people of the world as Christ who died to prove his love for the whole world (Ephesians 4:15, John 3:16).

Suicide and Christianity

If it means anything to be a Christian, anything beyond accepting Jesus as a mascot for kindness and civility, then being a Christian means thinking like the Jesus who is revealed in the New Testament. That Jesus lives on: he was raised from the dead and he lives in the hearts and minds of those who have submitted their wills to his lordship.

For those of us who live under the authority of Jesus Christ, who have surrendered our very selves to him, there is a different way of thinking which places at odds with a post-Christian culture. Indeed if we communicate this kind of Christian thinking in the marketplace today, we will encounter strident opposition from a growing segment of the population influenced by popular culture, even among those within “the church.”

I read today that a terminally ill 29 year old cancer patient committed suicide, and that is lauded as heroism by many, even by some who would call themselves “Christian.” Suicide is not heroic. It is selfish, and cowardly. However, I do not expect a world that rejects Jesus Christ and his way of thinking to agree with my assessment. For those who call Jesus their Lord, however, I have a different expectation.

Jesus people do not play God. When someone commits suicide that is precisely what they are doing, even if they have a terminal disease. The reality is, all of us have a terminal disease. We all live under the curse of death. Every single one of us will die. I did not give myself life. I did not decide the day of my birth. I do not have the authority to decide the day of my death. God does. God says, “Do not murder.” This applies to suicide. If you commit suicide you will answer for it in judgment.

But you may say” “You don’t understand. You are callous. You don’t know the pain this woman was in.” I do understand. I simply do not agree with this choice. More importantly, I am making the case that Jesus Christ disagrees with this choice. I am not callous. I have been in great pain. I have suffered emotionally and physically. I have had suicidal thoughts. Fear of God and respect for life has kept me from considering such thoughts.

What if I had cancer? God forbid it, but what if…? I know I would want to die peacefully, painlessly. I believe I would be tempted to take my life too. Sadly, the precedent is not being set by a 29 year old woman, but by the media who condones (perhaps even celebrates) euthanasia. It will make suicide a more viable option for others who are diagnosed with a terminal disease, or even those who suffer physical or emotional pain. Would it make it easier for me to do the same? I know I must face God in judgment. My life is not my own.

The Apostle Paul was facing execution at the hands of the Romans due to false accusations by his own people. He wrote from the equivalent of death row: “To live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). He had reason to despair, but he continued to hope. He confesses that he’d prefer to die and meet Jesus. However, the Apostle was convinced he would continue to live and love.
“Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me” (Philippians 1:25-26, NLT).

A more contemporary example is found in Pope John Paul II. In his waning years the Pontiff suffered from Parkinson’s disease and osteoarthrosis. He had difficulty hearing and speaking. It was painful to observe him in public. However, John Paul II chose to press on as an example to everyone of how a Christian should bear up under suffering. This is an example we desperately need today. Christianity is not about getting everything we want in this life. It is not about the supreme value of freedom. It is not about being healthy, wealthy and wise. It is about denying myself, taking up my cross and following Jesus. Sooner or later that will mean following my Lord through the valley of the shadow of death, but even then I will not fear evil because He will be with me, to comfort and guide and bring me to the other side.

We must learn how to suffer. We must learn to place our hope in Christ’s gift of eternal life. We must learn to value life. Above all we must learn that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge and wisdom. Acknowledging God in all of our thinking is vital. Too many Christians are influenced by contemporary culture more than the teaching and example of Jesus. Too many of us believe today’s talking heads and self-proclaimed experts above the Word of God. I don’t expect those who doubt the Bible and disbelieve in it’s God to agree with me. But you who claim to belong to Jesus must think differently. The world needs this contrast. For who will recognize that they are in the dark if they are not shown the light?

Suicide and Salvation

I write this in the wake of the reported suicide of Robin Williams. Many of us are shocked, and many who battle depression have empathy for him. Everyone should have sympathy, and no one offer condemnation. However, it is very important to realize that suicide is not the answer to peace or escape.

There is a very dangerous belief shared by many Americans when death occurs. I’ve heard it at many funerals, and you’ll hear variations of it as people talk about Robin Williams or others who’ve died, whether by their own hand or in another way. Theologians call the belief in question, “universalism,” which means all people are going to heaven, or to “a better place.” Sadly, I must report the truth, however: everyone who dies will not go to a better place. I realize fully that this is neither comforting nor popular. However, if you are comforting yourself and others at the price of perpetuating a lie, then you are buying a little comfort at the price of eternal pain. If you want to know the truth, then you need to go to the Bible, which is God’s message to humankind.

The Bible teaches the following. Everyone dies. Everyone will be judged by God. “It is appointed for everyone once to die and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Not everyone will be in heaven. “Anyone whose name was not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life was thrown into the Lake of Fire with the Devil and his angels” (Revelation 20:15). You will be judged. Only those with their names in the book spoken of will go to heaven. How would you know?

Actually, you get to choose one of two destinations, but only two. Either you choose to spend eternity with God in heaven, or to be eternally separated from God, which is hell. There is not a third option. There is no purgatory mentioned in the Bible, even though the Roman Catholic church has developed such a doctrine. Heaven is not a place of your own making, the realization of your fantasies, or the reward of living a good life (even if that were possible on your own).

Appropriately, Robin Williams was in a movie about heaven once. The 1998 release “What Dreams May Come” was based on a 1978 book of the same title by Richard Matheson, The concept of heaven is not one you’ll find in the Bible; instead, it depicts a sort of dream heaven that might be nearer to the idea many share, or, at least, wish for. In the movie heaven is essentially the living out of one’s wishes and desires. This is a “heaven” without God, or perhaps, more accurately, a heaven of one’s own making, so I am my own god. In the film Robin Williams plays the main character, Chris Nielsen, who dies in a car accident and is led through his heaven by a “friendly spirit” (Cuba Gooding Jr.). Chris’s wife, Ann (Annabella Sciorra), commits suicide and lives on in her own self-made hell (the antithesis of this concept of heaven). Chris saves his wife in the end. This kind of thinking has displaced the Bible in our culture and that gives more room for people who are considering suicide to believe they will be in a “better place.” 

Williams may have been inclined to believe in some form of reincarnation. Here’s a quote about the film from an interview mentioned in an article by Huffington Press. 

“When I watched the final movie, I felt it was extraordinarily beautiful but I felt disappointed by the ending. There was a different ending that they shot that I felt was much more true to the story. It was about reincarnation, basically, that they were going to meet again. The movie ended with two babies being born simultaneously, one in Bombay and one in the United States, and they held them up, and then the screen went to black.”

Did this play into his consideration of suicide? We may never know.

There will be no reincarnation, as Hinduism has it. There will be a resurrection, both of the righteous and the unrighteous (Revelation 20:6 and surrounding). The righteous are those who’ve been made right by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross (Romans 3:24-26), who have been reborn by receiving Christ (John 1:12, 3:3 & 5). These people are justified (made right) by Jesus Christ and will rise from the dead and reign with Him. The unrighteous are those who do not believe, who reject Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for their sins . They will come up in the second resurrection and will be judged according to what is written in “the books,” which means they will be judged for their own works. Since none are righteous apart from Christ (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:23), they are thrown into the Lake of Fire to be eternally destroyed (Revelation 20:11-15).

Heaven is “God’s space, or God’s dimension” to quote theologian N.T. Wright (from his book Surprised by Hope). This is where God’s throne is (Psalm 11:4). After death we leave earth and enter the dimensions of God’s space beyond time.  So, I don’t die and go to “my heaven.” If I don’t believe in God, if I don’t want to be with God, if I want to escape his presence, the only option is hell. This is a realm where people are forever separated from God, and must ultimately pay the penalty for their own sins, which is eternal death, or destruction.

So, there is no heaven apart from God. Even if you were given some realm in which to live out your dreams, without God it would soon become hell. Human beings were made by God and for God (Psalm 100:3). We were made to be loved by God, and to love and worship God (Matthew 22:37-38). Self-love alone is malformed love, which soon devolves into selfish idolatry. I am missing what I was made for if I am apart from God. I become increasingly warped and monstrous the longer I remain separated from God. I believe what will make hell more “hellish” is that those who dwell there will have only self to sense and serve and love. We were created not only to love God but to love other people (Matthew 22:39). In order to do that we must receive the love God offers through Jesus. “Love one another the way I have loved you” (John 15:12). In hell we will be separated, not only from God, but from caring about others. Love will be impossible.

In this fallen world we are naturally separated from God by sin. Humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), but we are fallen; we are broken. So long as we live in this dimension of time, however, there is time enough to change.  We are malformed creatures, who may be reformed into the image of God by putting faith in Jesus Christ. That is our hope and our opportunity now, today. “Today is the day of salvation, now is the time of God’s favor” (2 Corinthians 6:2). This is why suicide is such a horrible lie. When someone commits suicide, they are looking for salvation from their depression and pain. The reality is, they have destroyed the opportunity to be saved in that moment.

A hurting person wants whatever they are going through to stop, but ending their earthly life will not stop it. Instead it may bring more pain than they can possibly imagine. There was a time in the Bible when the people were longing for an end to their difficult circumstances. They cried out for “the Day of the Lord,” which is another way of saying “Judgment Day,” the time when God will make everything right. Problem is, the people who cried out for this were sinning. They were not right with God. In fact, the circumstances they were complaining about were actually sent by God as discipline. The pain they were enduring would only be temporary if they would change their hearts and minds and listen to God. Here is what the prophet Amos told these people about their desire to see the Day of the Lord, and I believe that this is what the suicidal person needs to hear, for they are hastening the day of their own judgment.

“Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! 

Why would you have the day of the Lord? 

It is darkness, and not light, 

 as if a man fled from a lion, 

and a bear met him, 

or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, 

and a serpent bit him. 

Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, 

and gloom with no brightness in it?”

(Amos 5:18-20).

If you’re hurting, depressed, despairing, there is hope! Your hope is cannot be killing yourself. The Sixth Commandment explicitly forbid this: You shall not kill. That means God commands you not to kill yourself, friend. He loves you and has a better life planned for you than you are currently experiencing. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to help you, not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). The promise made to His exiled people in this verse is for you too. If you are in exile from God, from love, from light, from experiencing life. Jesus offers a rich and satisfying life. It is the enemy of God, Satan, who wants to kill you. 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come to give abundant life” (John 10:10). The thief is Satan. He is a murderer and a liar; in fact, he is the source of the lies you are believing right now. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b).

Change your thinking, friend. Change your ways. Turn your life completely over to the care of the Lord Jesus Christ, right now.

We all sin. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All of us earn death for our sin. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). Jesus died so you don’t have to! Jesus also rose from the dead. He overcame our worst enemy, the devil, and our greatest fear, death.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had* the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”

(Hebrews 2:14-15, NLT).

Jesus is alive and He offers you the gift of eternal life, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). 

You need to be saved. “What must we do to be saved” (Acts 2:38a)? All you have to do is turn away from your own thinking and your own ways and turn toward Jesus Christ. “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38b). Call out to Jesus right now. Admit you’ve sinned, admit that suicidal thoughts are sin. Confess that Jesus died and rose so that you can be forgiven and saved. “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved… whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9 & 13).

Pray right now:

Jesus,

I believe in you.

I believe you died for my sins.

I believe you rose from the dead.

I give you my life, right now.

I want your Holy Spirit to live inside of me.

I receive you, your gift of eternal life and all that you have to offer.

Jesus Christ, you are Lord and God.

You are my God.

Amen.

Now, get to a church and get some support. Start reading your Bible so that your mind can be renewed and transformed (Romans 12:2). If you haven’t been baptized in water since you gave your life to Jesus Christ, you must be. He commanded it.

For more, visit our church’s website http://lifewellchurch.com

You Serve What You Fear

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“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”

In the New American Commentary David Garland make this thought provoking observation: “It is said that whatever it is that one fears the most that is what one will serve the most.”

What do you fear the most in this life? In what ways can you see yourself serving that fear? Perhaps we could look at it this way: what do you serve to keep your fear at bay? Before I committed my life to Jesus Christ, it was fear of demonic evil that drove me toward salvation. I sought protection from Christ. I believed he had more power than what threatened me. Still do.

Now, if it is true that what we serve most is what we fear most, then it explains why so many people’s worship of God is half-hearted, and why sincere service among those who claim to believe in Jesus is so infrequent and weak. We simply do not fear God.

Failure to fear God may be the backlash from too much teaching on cheap grace. It is also the expected consequence of the widespread assumption: “I can do whatever I want; God won’t care.” We could see this as a relative of atheism. For all practical purposes, regardless of what one professes, without fear (deep respect) there can be no realistic faith in the God who created the universe and will call every person to account for their actions.

Paul always kept the judgment of God before him. He fully expected to be evaluated by Christ at the judgment bar of Christ. I do not believe that the Apostle feared that the verdict would go against him. He had confident faith that he was made right by Christ’s atoning death on the cross and victorious resurrection. However, he fully realized that everyone needs to be persuaded of the truth. The reality is, “It is appointed for everyone once to die, and then comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body” (2 Corinthians 5:10, NLT).

Everyone will be judged and we all desperately need salvation from eternal condemnation. Concern for those who are headed for destruction drove Paul to persuade people by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus. “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-6, NLT).

So, what do you serve? Could it be something that helps you suppress your fear? Some people serve addictions to alcohol and/or drugs to escape anxiety/worry, which is a type of fear. People absorb themselves in academics or their careers, distract themselves with entertainment and games, become obsessed with competition or personal projects, all to escape the fear of insignificance, loneliness and death.

“Fear God and you need fear nothing else” (Isaiah 8:13). Add to that, “Fear God and you will worship nothing else.” Fear God and every activity will be an act of worship, every act of service will be for his sake.

Non-conformist Christianity

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Christianity in the West has, for quite some time, been about cultural conformity, and very little, if at all, about the life and teachings of Jesus. It used to be that growing up in the United States meant you were exposed to Christian values, even if you chose to ignore or rebel against them. Not so today. To conform with Western culture, more specifically the American version, is to be at odds with the values of Christ. Therefore, in order to be a Christian, the kind of Christian that lives according to values taught by the biblical Jesus, you will need to become a non-conformist.

There are still vestiges of Christian culture, and plenty of people who appreciate it— even if they don’t really live by following Jesus— so, you’ll have a few friends. However, genuinely following Jesus Christ’s teaching will put you at odds with the majority. Your lifestyle will appear strange, and many of your choices will alienate you, even from church people. This is okay… if you believe what Jesus said.

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18-19, ESV).

Don’t assume that “the world” in Jesus’ statement refers only to secular culture. It includes the church and its culture too. Remember, it was the most religious and well respected people who were the architects of Jesus’ execution. These were the guardians of culture in a society founded on religion. It was they who failed to recognize that God had come to visit. They confused their system of ritual, liturgy and law with God. The Romans worshiped strength and their own power. These first century Jewish leaders actually worshiped their own religious power. Jesus threatened that; he made them jealous; they had him killed.

In our day I’m no longer surprised when priests and ministers are exposed as frauds or moral failures. There are too many who are in religious leadership for the wrong reasons. I would be more surprised if every high profile leader or celebrity pastor were actually as pure as they pretend to be. Freud had at least one thing right, there exist ego defense mechanisms employed by people to protect their public personae. Among these defense mechanisms, Sigmund identified what he called “reaction formation,” wherein a person comes out publicly against something that they are actually practicing (or at least are harboring).

An example of this may be observed in the 1999 movie American Beauty. Ricky is the son of a homophobe. Ricky becomes friends with his next door neighbor Jane. Jane’s father is Lester (played by Kevin Spacey), who has a crush on one of Jane’s female friends. One day Ricky’s homophobic father comes on to Lester. After Lester rebuffs the surprising sexual advance, Ricky’s father shoots and kills Lester. The idea, I believe, is not that the man hated Lester, but he was driven by shame to kill what he hated about himself. Reaction formation is what is behind the shooter’s public hatred of homosexuals. One wonders about the late Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church…

People are attracted to money, sex and power. When religion offers a way to obtain any of the three, there will those who pursue it for that reason rather than the purported spiritual purpose. So, the answer to non-conformity with the world is not conformity to a religion, denomination,or church’s cultural expectations. In fact, the conservative expressions of church in the U.S.A. may be little more than the conservation of an older iteration of American culture, which may have some values that derive from the teachings of Jesus, but some that do not.

We seem to have selective memory when it comes to our longing for a bygone era. Peruse the fiction aisles of a Christian bookstore and you’ll encounter many novels which are set in the pioneer days. This seems to be a golden era in the minds of conservative Christians. The women all have long dresses and bonnets on their heads, the men are strong, family oriented and honorable. However, an honest examination of history would find many non-Christian values and religious expressions, during this time period. Then there’s slavery and racism. The pictures on the covers of these books are of white people. People of color probably do not look back at the 1800’s with nostalgic longing.

It doesn’t matter if you attend church or fancy yourself an atheist, you cannot escape the influence of culture. Those of us who seek to follow Jesus, however, need to stage a rebellion. I’m not thinking about a new monastic movement, or withdrawing from society like the Amish. We need to change our thinking and change our ways. We need to eschew conformity to either the secular or religious cultures and have our minds renewed by the truth of God. We need awakening. We need transformation. We need a resurrection.

This all begins with dissatisfaction. If think you’re all you need to be, if you have all you want, then you’ll never change. Jesus said he came to cure those who are sick, not affirm those who think they’re well (Matthew 9:12-13). He is the light of the world, but those who think they see, never will. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Dissatisfaction with the world system, with our culture, may then lead us to a willingness to look elsewhere for happiness and fulfillment. “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), so the ability to look elsewhere requires faith. Believe in the existence of a loving, almighty Creator. Trust him. Seek God by looking to the one who claimed to be his only born son. Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). No one has ever seen God, but Jesus has explained Him (John 1:18). He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), and “in him all the fullness of God lives bodily” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus boldly proclaimed, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). If you want to know the truth and be free, then follow Jesus Christ and his teaching (John 8:31-32).

Our churches must become communities of non-conformity by virtue of taking the teachings of Jesus seriously and doing what the Lord commanded. Our lives must be consumed with love for God, rather than love of money. We must love one another the way Jesus loved us, rather than loving ourselves and seeking our own agendas. We must love our neighbors as ourselves, instead of loving stuff and envying those neighbors who have more than us. We must learn to be sacrificial servants, rather than self-seeking and self-serving consumers.

We must learn to worship and enjoy God’s presence in our everyday activities instead of constantly seeking to be entertained. We must reign in our insatiable and increasingly perverse sexual appetites. Pornography, fornication, adultery and homosexuality, all of which are practiced widely (even in churches), must immediately and completely stop in the lives of Christ’s followers. The love of guns, love of violence, bloodlust, all must become abhorrent to us. Guns are tools. I don’t love my shovel, my crescent wrench, or my blender.

We need to stop depending upon chemicals to make us happy or keep our moods positive. Alcohol, marijuana, antidepressants, energy drinks, cocaine or meth: it doesn’t matter, if I’m relying on the chemical instead of God, then it’s an idol and it has to go. “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12); “all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up” (1 Corinthians 10:23).

If this is going to happen it will require a death. The death is the old me, my old self. That will not happen, indeed it cannot, through my own efforts. I don’t have the desire or courage to begin the process. Self-denial, self-discipline and harsh treatment of my body won’t change me on the inside. Faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus, however, will. “For I have been crucified with Christ and no longer do I live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

I don’t think a non-conforming community of Jesus should avoid the world or avoid the culture, though. We need to engage people who are enthralled with culture and inured to religion with a real and relevant and renewed counter-culture centered on Jesus and his teachings. I’m not sure how all this looks yet, but I’m seeking and getting a sense of how it feels. Anyone else interested in joining the non-conformist revolution? Start with a serious reading of Jesus teaching to his followers about what it means to live out life like a follower. You’ll find it in Matthew chapters five, six and seven.

Fasting for Lent and Beyond

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The season of Lent is a time many Christians choose to fast. The following are some reasons for fasting, and not just for Lent. Fasting may be beneficial at any time.

 

1. Fast as an Act of Dedication–  Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted after his baptism and prior to entering into his ministry. Perhaps he did this to gain confirmation and clarity by intensely focusing on God.

 

 2. Fast as an Exercise of Discipline–  Learn to say no to “me.” All of the temptations were for Jesus to act expediently and egotistically. If Jesus had given in it would not have been an exercise of faith, but, rather, the wildly alternating swings between self-doubt and presumption.

 

3. Fast as an Affirmation of Dependence–  Learn to rely on the power of God. Jesus’ first statement in response to Satan’s temptation. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3 as quoted in Matthew 4:4, also John 4:34).

 

4. Fast to Establish Determination–  Learn to have a tenacious and unshakeable faith. “This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29, Matthew 17:21).

 

5. Fast as an Act of Desperation–  Cry out to God in repentance (Joel & Israel, Jonah and Ninevah). “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” (Joel 2:12 NIV). A need to hear from God at all costs (Daniel 10 & 21 days of prayer), David seeking the healing of his 1st child by Bathsheba. 

 

In 2014 Lent begins on Wednesday, March 5th (Ash Wednesday) and extends until Easter Sunday, April 20th. 

Whatever you decide to do, remember the following principles. 

If you make a vow, keep it.  

Choose something that will really require discipline to give up. 

Giving up what you shouldn’t be doing to begin with is not fasting, it’s obedience.

 

 Here is what Pastor D is challenging Lifewell Church  to consider.

 

1) Pick a legitimate pleasurable food or activity and wait until Easter Sunday to enjoy it.

Why? You are learning to discipline yourself for the sake of Christ. You are learning that life is not about pleasure and consumption.

Examples: stop eating candy or dessert, stop drinking soda, coffee or alcohol, stop watching TV,  watching or listening to sports, secular music,  talk radio, movies, stop playing video games, get off of Facebook or another social media app, stop texting.

 

2) Fast every Friday from 6am until 6pm through Easter weekend.

Why? You are fasting to remind yourself of  Jesus’ suffering on Good Friday.

If you are unable to fast completely, drink juice during this time. For health purposes drink pure fruit or vegetable juice (not artificially sweetened).

 

3) Eat no flesh. Abstain from eating meat until Easter Sunday.

Why? You are abstaining from literal flesh as a reminder to reckon yourself dead to your fleshly nature. More importantly, remind yourself that you are alive in the Spirit through Christ’s resurrection form the dead. Remember, only faith brings the realization that you are united with Christ in his death and resurrection. Fasting will not do this apart from faith.

If you participate, I believe you will grow from the experience.