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Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Peace of Mind or the Peace That Passes All Understanding

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.[…] I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Phil 4:4-9 & 11b-13 (ESV)

Being at peace with a decision is not the same as having the peace that passes all understanding. Making a decision that falls in line with your own desires is likely to produce a peace about the decision, but having a peace that passes all understanding is being at peace with the God of the universe through Jesus the Christ even though we deserve no peace from Him because we have committed treason against His infinite attributes (in other words, we have sinned against Him). If you have THAT peace, you can be at peace no matter what situation you are in regardless of whether it lines up with your desires or not.

“It is a by-product of the presence of the ‘God of peace’ that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The full reality of that peace comes to bear as we obey the command of verse 8 above: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”–in other words, saturate your thoughts in Christ & the Gospel. (Thank you Pastor Gary for that helpful insight!)

Why Study the Psalms if I Don’t Get Them?

I’ve been trying to work my way through the book of Psalms & spend some time on each one using a commentary because I’ve always had trouble “getting” the psalms. I understand the basic gist of the psalms (or think I do), but they are generally not the inspiration & comfort to me that they are to so many people. Part of it is the structure of them; because they are poetry, I have a hard time understanding them. Call me shallow, but I’ve always had more difficulty with poetry that doesn’t rhyme (& many times I even have difficulty with that). Add to that the fact that the psalms are translated out of a foreign language with structural compositions that I have a hard time following, & it makes me want to just breeze through them to get them over with & just hope that God will somehow bless my mere completing of the task.

The bigger reason, I think, that they don’t have the effect on me that others seem to experience is that God has chosen to spare me of significant trials & sorrows to this point in my life (&, yes, I need to spend some time considering the implications of that based on some New Testament passages). Take the first 2 verses of Psalm 18 for instance (where I’m currently at in reading through the psalms):

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Now, I can accede to all that in my mind, but there is no significant sense of comfort there for me because I have not experienced that overwhelming need for a refuge & stronghold from my enemies whoever or whatever they may be.

So, does this mean that I have no reason to study these Scriptures more deeply & try to get more out of them? Absolutely not! And here are a few of the benefits I can see of studying them more in depth even though I do not experience them the way others do (in no particular order):

1. I may be able to point someone else to particular ones in the time of their distress.

2. God may more readily bring them to my own mind for comfort when I do experience trials & sorrows.

3. I will gain a better understanding & appreciation of the various attributes of God especially love, mercy, & faithfulness.

4. I may better see how the Old Testament looks forward to Christ & see Him in the Psalms (because, to quote Sally Lloyd Jones, “every story whispers his name” [The Jesus Storybook Bible])

5. I may gain a better understanding of poetry in general & in particular in how it is used in the Bible.

Do All Religions Lead to God?

I originally posted these questions in May 2009 as part of a rather lengthy religious discussion I was involved with on Facebook with some of my friends. One of my friends had, in essence, argued that there are many paths to God even though she claimed to believe in the God of the Bible. The following was part of my response to her in an attempt to get her to think through the implications of her claim. I still think they are important things to consider if you are going to try to claim that all religions are equally valid.

1. If Christianity is equal to any other religion, why does the Bible repeatedly say there is only ONE God & ONE way to Him?

2. What about Satanic worship? Is it a legitimate religion? And if not, on what foundation can you make that claim?

3. What about polytheism (belief in many different gods)? How does it fit into the “many paths to God” belief?

4. Why are different religions contradictory to each other if they all lead to the same God?

5. Why would God create multiple religions when any one religion is essentially available to the whole world?

6. Is it illogical to think that God would punish those that choose to deny the way He set forth regardless of how “good” they are?

7. Are we trying to conform God to our finite understanding?

8. If Genesis 1:1 is true, is it not possible that the entire Bible is true?

9. If all religions are viable ways to God/heaven, who goes to hell? Does anyone go to hell? If some people go to hell, what is the standard for sending them there?

And finally (and I personally think this is the big one):

10. Why would Jesus willingly sacrifice Himself if there were other ways to God? Why would He even lower Himself and come to earth?

My Case For God

[Originally posted on Facebook on May 3, 2009–This post was a result of my thinking through how I might be able to prove to someone  that there is a god & that you can’t do enough good to outweigh any bad you have done after my boss claimed he was agnostic and then stated, “If there is a god, I figure the good things I’ve done will balance out any bad things I’ve done.” I readily admit this is not the best argument out there, & I realize that I make a bit of a leap for a logical “proof” around #s 7-8. I also realize that in #21 it is probably better understood that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:20), but I decided to leave the note as I originally wrote it]

1.) There is a God–Nothing else makes sense. If there is not an Almighty Creator, how did everything come into existence? The “big bang”?! This just isn’t a logical explanation. Where did the elements come from that allowed an event like that to occur? And what kind of leap of faith does it take to believe that a cosmic event occurred in which things lined up so perfectly that this “perfect” habitat we call Earth came into existence with the diversity of life that it has (even if you believe that it occurred over billions of years)?! And if you do choose to believe in a “big bang” or something similar, what was there before that event? I find in[sic] very sobering and somewhat mind-boggling to consider what “eternity past” really means; it’s a term that’s easy to throw out there but becomes very difficult (if not impossible) to fully understand when you really dwell on it for a while. When you consider eternity past, there must be something that triggered the universe in which we live; if it was a “big bang”, what triggered it? There has to be a starting point. Nothing could exist for eternity past except an all-powerful being. I could probably ramble on more, but I think I’ve made my point.

2.) Since there is a God who has always existed, he must have created everything.

3.) Since God created everything, He must be all-powerful.

4.) Since God is all-powerful, He must set the rules.

5.) Since He set the rules, all right & wrong are determined by Him.

6.) Since He determines what is right/wrong, He can never be wrong.

7.) Breaking God’s rules (doing wrong) is called sin.

8.) The Bible (Old & New Testaments) constitutes the word of God written by many different men over hundreds of years through the divine inspiration of God without error or contradiction.

9.) If we believe that the God of the Bible is the one, true God, we must believe the entirety of the Bible because He says “all scripture is breathed out by God…” (2 Timothy 3:16a), & since we have already established that God cannot be wrong, this MUST be true.

10.) Since the entire Bible must be true, EVERYONE has sinned (ALL people from all time). “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”–Romans 3:23.

11.) God must be Holy (set apart), Loving, Righteous, Perfect

***God must have certain attributes. He must be all-powerful ergo he must be all-knowing and be capable of being everywhere. He must be perfect & only He can be perfect. He must be righteous. He must love His creation because He made it.

12.) Because God is perfect, He cannot allow imperfection (sin) into His presence.

13.) Since we have all sinned, we cannot be allowed into His presence; we are doomed to be separated from Him for all eternity.

14.) Since God is righteous, sin MUST be punished (we broke His rules, after all).

15.) Since God loves His creation, He wants it to be able to enjoy Him.

16.) There is nothing WE can do to make up for our sin. Even if we do good things, we are still imperfect because we have sinned; we cannot change that no matter how much good we do.

17.) The only way we can be allowed into God’s presence is if our sins have been paid for (someone has been punished for them).

18.) God requires a sacrifice to take the place of our sins. Only someone who is perfect can be a worthy sacrifice for others’ sins.

19.) Jesus lived a perfect life, and since He was perfect, He must be God even though He was a man.

20.) Jesus willingly gave up His life and took on God’s punishment for our sins even though He was perfect and did not deserve any punishment.

21.) If Jesus had only died as a sacrifice for our sins, it would not have been enough because there would have been a power stronger than Him–Death. Jesus rose from the dead through His own power which shows that nothing has power over Him.

22.) Since we have accepted that the Bible is true and is the Word of God, we must believe that the debt we owe for our sins has been paid by Jesus’ death and the only thing we must do to claim that payment is BELIEVE that Jesus died for our sins and ask for His forgiveness.

I pray that this note will glorify God and that He will use it to draw others to Him. There are probably better arguments from people more eloquent than I, but I believe that this is a fairly logical approach to the existence of God and Jesus. I fear that I have left things out so if anyone notices any mistakes, PLEASE correct them, and PLEASE feel free to add your own thoughts, comments, reflections, etc.

Even Now, I Still Have A Long Way To Go

[Originally posted on Facebook on 04/28/2009]

Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about God and what He means to me; this has been going on intermittently for a few months and has become more of a burden in the last few weeks. I’m prompted to write this note because of the recent death of a friend of mine.

I found myself in tears on the way home from the funeral home, and I could not figure out exactly why I was crying. Was I sad because a friend had died? Was I responding emotionally to the song on the radio that spoke of God’s greatness? Were they tears of joy because my friend had accepted Christ? Were they tears of remorse for failing to share the gospel with others? Or was it a combination of all these things & maybe more–I think this is the most likely explanation.

I have been told that she had accepted God’s gift of salvation through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection; and for that I praise God. However, I think back on all the times that I talked to her over the years– all the times that I sat in her chair while she cut my hair (sometimes as often as every 2 weeks), and I realize that I never once spoke to her about spiritual matters.

I am thankful that God saw fit to save her despite my shortcomings, but what might her life or her testimony been like had I even once opened my mouth to share the gospel with her? Or anyone else for that matter? What stopped me? Many things: fear of rejection, fear of offending her, fear that I would say the wrong things, fear that my knowledge of scripture was too poor, and on and on it goes. Do you see the common theme? FEAR. But what should I be afraid of? Or better yet, why should I fear these things? If I speak the truth in love, it is not my place to worry about peoples’ reactions or what they do with that information; if they reject it, they are rejecting God, not me. As long as I stick to what I DO know, I should not worry about saying the wrong things, and if my knowledge of scripture is not what it should be, I can always say “I don’t know” & look something up or find someone who does know the answer. I should NOT fear because the Bible tells me not to fear: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…” (Matthew 10:28a).

I believe that by God’s grace and with His help I am entering a new chapter in my life; one that I hope will be marked by a greater openness about my faith in Jesus and what He has done. I see this note as the beginning of this chapter, and I hope to write more notes like this in the future. But, I also hope that I become more willing to share with others face-to-face in my everyday life and take advantage of those opportunities that are right in front of me.

I suppose I still haven’t really said WHAT I believe or WHY I believe it so here’s my attempt:

I believe in God (the one and only God). I believe His Son Jesus died on a cross as a perfect sacrifice for my sins and the sins of the whole world. I believe Jesus rose from the dead through His own power on the third day. I believe we are saved from the punishment for our sins (eternity in Hell) by accepting Jesus’ free gift of salvation through belief in Him as our savior. I believe that He has saved me. I believe that just because I am saved does not mean that I am perfect or that I will never sin again.

Here are a few things to consider:

“for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 ESV)

“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9 ESV)

I hope that others read this note, and it encourages them, or causes them to ask questions, or think more about God. If you have any questions or comments for me about this note, PLEASE post them or email them to me.

[09/03/2012–Reading back over this more than 3 years later, I realize that I still have a long way to go to get to where I desired (& still do desire) to be in the post. I have changed & I have grown in many respects since then, but I find I am still very hesitant to share the Gospel with others. I can’t really explain it. I know I should. I know I have nothing to fear. Yet I still don’t. I have little difficulty discussing it when someone else brings it up, but otherwise I usually remain silent. I pray God changes that. Heaven forbid I stay this way!]

Not Keeping Up

After starting off this blog with a lot of posts back in February (mostly of links to articles & such that I liked), I have significantly slacked off (probably a bit of an understatement). I don’t have the time, talent, wisdom, or memory required to keep up a regular output on this blog. The time thing is an especially big factor right now, but I don’t want to completely give up on this thing.

I’ve been reading through some of my old notes that I’ve posted on Facebook in the past, & I think that I will repost some or all of them on here over the next few weeks or so. Some of those notes resulted in some very good & lengthy discussions, & I hope they will be an encouragement to anybody who might read them.

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