Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Like That Only Better

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

I’m a big fan of C. S. Lewis. There’s nothing of his that I’ve read that I didn’t enjoy. My six year old daughter is developing a love for him as well. About six months ago I started reading her The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. She was absolutely enchanted with the story. Since I’ve been reading her a chapter of Chronicles of Narnia almost every night before bed.

As you may or may not know, Lewis wrote the Narnia stories as an allegory for the Christian faith. The other night my daughter and I were reading a chapter from The Silver Chair (Narnia). At a key moment in the book the lead characters, Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole (from our world), Puddleglum the Narnian Marsh-Wiggle, and Prince Rilian of Narnia have been captured by an evil witch in underworld. They’ve been enchanted by her music. The witch is trying to convince them that the land on the surface, where they’re from, is only a dream.

In their enchanted stupor the try to convince her of the truth of the overworld. They try to describe the sun to her. In so doing they use a lamp as an illustration. It’s like the lamp, only better. Then they try to describe the great Aslan to her. He’s like a cat, only better.

Often, I feel like Eustace, Jill, Puddleglum, and Rilian when I try to explain to people about my life with Jesus. It’s like ordinary life, only better. But like the witch, why should someone believe me if the only way I can describe following Jesus is by saying it’s like that only better. Who can blame people for reacting like the witch and saying what a lovely dream that must have been.

Ultimately, Eustace, Jill, Puddleglum, and Rilian would rather hold on to their dream than submit to the dull “reality” of the witch. Once they’ve committed to this they are able to defeat the witch and are vindicated when they return to the surface.

It reminds me of Pascal’s wager. Pascal, the French philosopher, mathematician, and Christ-follower, argued that following Christ is a simple choice. In Pensees he argued that it only makes logical sense to follow Jesus whether it’s true or not. He said if you follow Jesus, you have the potential to gain everything but no matter what you lose nothing. If you don’t follow Jesus, you have the potential to lose everything but no matter what you gain nothing. How about you? How would you respond to Pascal’s wager?

The Way of the Cross

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

This year I’m going to be live blogging the Way of the Cross to celebrate Good Friday. Throughout the day I’ll be posting meditations based on the traditional Roman Catholic Stations of the Cross. I invite you to join me on this meditation and please post your thoughts and meditations as we worship King Jesus together.

I want to see the wonders of God’s great love.

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

During my regular quiet time today I read the first half of Psalm 17. In this prayer David comes to the Lord and asks to see the “wonders of his great love” (Psalm 17:7a NIV). Isn’t that what we all want? Don’t all of us that believe there is a God want to see the “wonders of his great love?” I know I do. That’s why I moved my family to Ann Arbor to launch Agape Ann Arbor. I want to see God’s love manifested in this city. I want to see my friends, and neighbors experience God’s love. I want to have a deeper, fuller experience of God’s love. I want to experience God like Jesus did when he was here.

If we all want to see the wonders of God’s great love, why don’t we here more stories of people seeing it? Is God hiding it from us? Is life some cosmic game of hot and cold with the prize an experience of God’s love?

No. God’s not hiding his love. I think we’re just looking for it in the wrong places and the wrong way. I think a clue to seeing the wonders of God’s great love can be found in Matthew 9:35-38:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Jesus experienced the wonders of the Father’s great love because he loved the same things the Father loved. When’s the last time you looked at the people walking down the streets of your town and felt compassion for the ones who don’t know Jesus? When’s the last time you tried to show someone the Jesus’ love them? If we want to see the wonders of God’s great love, we will see it when we express it to those he loves around us. As we express God’s love to the people he loves we will experience the wonder’s of his great love.

What’s one thing you can do today to express God’s love to someone you live near or work with?

The American Heresy

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

In the comments on my last post I had a spirited conversation with a friend from high school regarding the existence of hell. To summarize my understanding of his argument, he believes that hell is not a real place because hell is evil and God being all good cannot create evil. The references to hell in Scripture, therefore, are metaphors. This is one of the many variations of this idea the United States today. I’d like to take a moment here to share my thoughts on the matter.

First, I believe hell is a literal place where people who do not receive God’s forgiveness for their sin through Jesus in their earthly lives will spend eternity. Hell is a place where those who have not received salvation in Christ receive eternal punishment for their sin (Matthew 25:30, 41; Revelation 14:9-11; 19:3).

This is not inconsistent with God’s goodness. In fact, quite the opposite is true. If God were not to punish sin then he would not be wholly good because he would allow evil to exist without consequence. In this sense, hell is no more evil than prison.

What about the length of punishment? Is eternal punishment really justified for temporal sin? Ultimately, I don’t think we can answer that, because we are incapable of ascertaining the true extent of sin. We do not know the damage that sin does beyond the obvious things that we see and feel. Yet we know that sin is wrong even when there are no apparent damages to the people around us (for instance sex between to single consenting adults is sin although there are no apparent negative effects). We cannot judge whether eternal punishment is fair or not, only God knows.

While this is not comfortable for me, I trust God. I know that God is good. I know that he will do what is right. So, I trust him to do the holy, righteous, loving, good thing. Even when I don’t understand it. I must hold myself to God’s standard and not attempt to hold him to mine. He’s God. I’m not.

There’s a lot more that could be said here but this is enough for one post. What do you think?

Eternal Life (Part 4)

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

The next occurrence of eternal life we will discuss is Luke 10:25 (parallels are Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34). The two occurrences in Mark were discussed with their parallel in Matthew in Part 2.

In Luke’s version an expert in the Law asks Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (NET). This is very similar to the story of the Rich Young Ruler (see Part 2). They both presume that there is something they can do to earn eternal life. Jesus asks, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” (Luke 10:26 NET).

“The expert answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live’” (Luke 10:27-28).

It’s too bad the story doesn’t end there because in the next verse the man attempts to “justify” himself by asking Jesus to identify his neighbor for him. He obviously didn’t understand the true depth of the answer that he gave Jesus. Jesus goes on to tell the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan.

You see the problem with the expert’s question was that he presumed the people who weren’t his neighbor outnumbered the people who were. He thought that neighbors were a select few and easy to identify. The “good” Jews that looked like him… acted like him… believed like him. He was totally wrong. Jesus teaches us that our neighbor is anyone with whom we come in contact. It’s not just the people that look and act like us and attend our church that are our neighbors. It’s not just the people that live in our neighborhood that are our neighbors. The homeless man asking for change for the bus is our neighbor. The Muslim families heading to the local mosque are our neighbors. The couple advocating for gay marriage are our neighbors. To experience eternal life, Jesus says that we must love them as we love ourselves. We love them because we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our strength and all our minds. And he loves out neighbors more than we ever could.

What are you going to do to love your neighbor this week?

Eternal Life (Part 2)

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

In part 1 we examined the only occurrence of the phrase eternal life in the Old Testament, Daniel 12:2.  In that context eternal life was a reward given to the righteous after they were resurrected.

Today we’re moving on to the first occurrence in the New Testament, Matthew 19:16.  It is part of the story commonly known as the Rich Young Ruler and occurs in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30).  One thing we need to remember here is that the focus of this story is not eternal life.  This story focuses on the things that keep us from experiencing eternal life because we value them above God.

Yet, we learn something about the nature of eternal life.  In Jesus’ answer to the man we learn three things.  These are adapted from Matthew: From Biblical Text to Contemporary Life (NIV Application Commentary Series)
by Michael J. Wilkins.  (1) Eternal life is a way of living different from the normal humans experience (Matthew 19:17).  Jesus doesn’t, at this point, clarify the nature of this life.  It is only clear that it’s different from the life the young man is experiencing.  (2) Eternal life is closely associated with the Kingdom of Heaven/God.  They are not one and the same, but you can’t have one without the other.  (3) Eternal life is part of salvation.

As you can see, the New Testament has expanded our view of eternal life.  The gift is not only received at the resurrection, all who are saved experience it.  It is a type of life different from the normal life experienced by humanity and is closely related to the Kingdom of God.

What other differences do you see from Daniel’s portrayal of eternal life and the Gospels’ presentations here?

Eternal Life (Part 1)

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

For those of you that have been following this blog for a little while, this series is going to be a little different from what you’re used to.  I’m going to give you a peek into my research.   The focus of my research is John’s use of the concept of eternal life in his Gospel.  This series is going to provide an overview of what Scripture says about eternal life.  We will look at each occurrence of the phrase in the Bible and try to understand what that passage says about eternal life.

The first and only time the phrase eternal life appears in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint abbreviated LXX) is in Daniel 12:2.  Daniel 12 is part of an apocalyptic revelation given to Daniel while he was in Persia.  It is part of a very long prophecy which culminates with these words:

1 “At that time Michael,
the great prince who watches over your people,
will arise.
There will be a time of distress
unlike any other from the nation’s beginning
up to that time.
But at that time your own people,
all those whose names are found written in the book,
will escape.
2 Many of those who sleep
in the dusty ground will awake—
some to everlasting life,
and others to shame and everlasting abhorrence.
3 But the wise will shine
like the brightness of the heavenly expanse.
And those bringing many to righteousness
will be like the stars forever and ever.
(Daniel 12:1-3 NET)

The phrase “everlasting life” in Greek is the same as “eternal life.”  Daniel tells us a couple of things about eternal life in this passage.  (1) Eternal life will be given to some after they are resurrected from the dead.  (2) Those that do not receive eternal life will receive eternal abhorrence.  The Greek word used here indicates a great disgrace.  In Ancient Near Eastern culture this was one of the worst things that could possibly happen to a person.  Honor was the most important thing in that culture.  Daniel is saying that some will be resurrected to eternal life and some will be resurrected to eternal disgrace.

So, Daniel 12:2 teaches us that eternal life is given to some when they are resurrected.  It appears here to be a reward of some kind and is the opposite of eternal disgrace.

How does this affect what you believe about eternal life?

Why Do I Still Need Deliverance?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Over the past several months I’ve been reading through the Psalms.  I’m reading through the Psalms because as I was reading through the Gospels last year I noticed how much Jesus quoted the Psalms.  So, I decided to spend some time immersing myself in them.

In truth, this has been more difficult than I anticipated.  I have found it hard to identify with much of what is said in the Psalms.  In particular, I find it hard to identify with the psalms of deliverance where the psalmist prays for deliverance from his enemies.  The main reason for this is that I don’t feel that I have any enemies to deal with.  I’m certainly not in the place of David as he was hiding from a vengeful king out to kill him.  No one is out to take my life.

As that thought came to me when I was reading Psalm 54 a couple of months ago it occurred to me that I do have an enemy.  I have an enemy who uses insurgent tactics against me.  The most effective aspect of his tactical approach is the fact that I forget he’s there.

Satan is always near tempting me to sin.  He is most effective when I forget that he is there.  When I forget that Satan is at work I forget to pray against him.  I start thinking that I can overcome sin on my own.  At those times, I forget that I need God.  I forget that I need the power of the cross.

I might as well be spitting on the cross because though I don’t say it with my words, with my actions I tell Jesus, “Thanks for dying but you didn’t need to, I can handle this.”  Yes, I’m that foolish.  And, I bet you can be sometimes too.

I’m grateful for the psalms of deliverance, because I still need God’s power to deliver me from sin and Satan.  I need the Holy Spirit constantly working in my life protecting me and transforming me.  The psalms of deliverance remind me to pray for God to continue to keep me from sin and lead me to praise him for sending his Son to die for me.

What have you learned recently from your time reading the Bible?