MUSINGS AT EASTER

EasterDear Friends,

A few thoughts crossed my mind this morning that I’d like to share concerning this Easter season and whatever you may believe about God and who He is. As I reflected upon the questions and doubts we often have about His character and even His existence, it occurred to me that for whoever we call “god” to be the one true God, He would have to conquer death, and He would have to demonstrate the greatest act of love. I concluded that both of these were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Now this is by no means a comprehensive list of the attributes of God, but they struck me to be compelling, even in their simplicity:

 1)      Conquering Death - There is one seeming mystery that none of us human beings have ever been able to overcome. None of us have ever come back from the dead. Despite our advancements in technology or science, we can’t stop that darn aging process and never once have we seen a loved one return from the grave.

Isn’t it logical that if there is a God (for anyone who may wonder), wouldn’t He be able to conquer the biggest hurdle of man’s existence? Wouldn’t He, being the Creator, be able to both create life and rise from the dead? Shouldn’t He be able to show that death is nothing over Him, to answer the greatest uncertainty of all? Not that I would presume to tell God what to do, but if God is God, I would expect Him to, or He isn’t God.

 And that is exactly what He did.

“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” Luke 24:1-6

If there is any other God but Jesus Christ, wouldn’t they have demonstrated his/her own resurrection?

2)      Demonstrating Love - If God is a God of goodness and love, wouldn’t He have the capacity to demonstrate the greatest act of love? If we as human beings know how to love, how much more is the One who created that love able to go far beyond any “goodness” we can muster? That act of love was dying on the cross to take the punishment for our sin. Because He was the Son of God taking on the form of man, His sacrifice was enough to take on all of our punishment and satisfy justice. What greater love could there be than an Omnipotent, pre-existing Being would humble Himself to not only become one of us, but to die for us? His staying on that cross doesn’t call into question his claim to be the Messiah, it confirms it.

 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:8)

And that is what Easter is all about. He took our place of punishment, forgiving in Godlike proportion. Because of the resurrection, we have the promise and the proof that we, too, will transcend death, that we have no reason to despair, fear and grieve like those who have no hope.

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6:5-6)

May His presence and love be evident to you this Easter, and may the reality of His death and resurrection become your foundation of saving faith.

 

THREE THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GOD’S DISCIPLINE

Hello Dear Readers,

A few posts back I wrote on obedience in the Christian life, and I joked that I would follow it up with the more interesting topic of rebellion. I hope you don’t mind that I took a little detour but I’m back on track today. No, I didn’t rebel against writing on rebellion! (ok that was lame).

Here’s our text:Rebellion

“For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and he scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.” (Heb.12:6-8)

There was a point in my life that I believe God chastened (corrected) me, and I can tell you it was one of the best things (spiritually) and worst things (physically) that has ever happened to me. He had to get my attention by slowing me down with illness long enough to re-focus my life. I’m not where I need to be, but I can tell you I haven’t been the same since…in a good way. One more thing is clear. When God chastens His own, you can bet it’s not going to be done in condemnation, but rather for correction. There’s a difference. Condemnation and punishment have no redeeming value. However, God’s correction to His own is done for a purpose to restore His child for his own good and to God’s glory.

Although there’s nothing joyful about being chastened at the time, this verse still resonates with me for several reasons:

  1. It tells us of God’s loving nature as our Heavenly Father. 

What kind of father would not discipline his son? Only a father who cares about the well-being of his child is diligent to keep a watchful eye on him. If a child is found playing with matches, only a good parent would reprimand him, snatch them out of his hand and make sure that kid never forgets that lesson. While this may be harsh, it is the most loving thing a parent can do. So it is with our Heavenly Father.

  1. It tells us that God’s discipline can be severe.

The transliteration of “scourges” is “mastiggoo”, which refers to flogging with a whip, and was a common Jewish practice. (MacArthur, Hebrews commentary, P.394). If the disobedience is great, or our apathy is great, His punishment will be great. Either way, we must know that God takes no pleasure in the painful discipline of His children. “For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness. For He does not afflict willingly, or grieve the sons of men.” (Lam. 3:31-33). 

  1. If we are disciplined by the Lord, it tells us that we are His. 

While we may enjoy and care about other people’s children, we are not obligated to discipline them. Why? Because ongoing discipline implies a close relationship. It is evidence of an investment made in the one who is disciplined. The fact that a child may be unruly and rebellious does not change the fact that he is still his Father’s son. It only emphasizes his need for discipline so that he might be mature enough to handle his Father’s inheritance.

While forgiven, we may have to deal with the consequences of our sin. Yet, as sons and daughters of God, our sin will never negate God’s ultimate promise and purpose. Does that mean we can do whatever we want? Maybe that’s not the question. Maybe it’s – How much pain do you want to bear? How much do you want to put your family or friends through?

On the other hand, does it seem as though many unbelievers are living an easy life? Do you sometimes feel as though God lets you get away with less? Don’t be so quick to envy. If they are not disciplined, it is because they are “illegitimate children and not sons.” Listen to what Paul says along these same lines. “They were being discipline by the Lord in order that they would not be condemned along with the world.” (1 Cor. 11:32). 

And peace as a result? There’s nothing like it.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

 

 

THOUGHTS ON MY MOTHER’S PASSING (ONE YEAR LATER)

A year ago today my mom went to be with the Lord.

And today, He has especially given me His assurance of victory and peace…

Of my mother’s comfort and joy,

Of newness and hope,

Of victory over all, when it’s all said and done.

Though there were days I wondered if we’d ever survive, we stood today at her gravesite, and I marveled that we not only made it through, but I knew that He had carried us through.

Today was one of those days that you think God may have turned up the colors on the Earth. Especially bright, sunny, with a just-perfect, soothing breeze. When we played the Hallelujah chorus by Handel, (a piece she loved), I couldn’t help but think that it was a small peek at the beauty she is seeing and hearing in heaven.

A year ago, I heard another wonderful song, “Grace Falls Down” by Christy Nockels. It kept running through my head when God comforted my mother after an especially hard day. It kinda became a theme of God’s goodness and care for her in my head:

 

As I was leaving the gravesite and got into my car today, I turned on the radio. Guess what was playing?

Amazing Grace

How sweet the sound

Amazing Love

Now flowing down

From hands and feet

That were nailed to a tree

As Grace flows down and covers me

 

What a reminder that He has covered my mom with grace, in her life, and now in a greater way I can’t imagine in heaven. As I walked the park later today, I noticed the same brightness, and His creation seemed to speak one word: Peace.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3: 22-23)

Yes, life is hard. Sometimes it is a horrible nightmare. We will suffer. We will be in anguish. There will be days when we may doubt His presence. ..but He can and will snuff that away. He whispers his comfort and a heavenly “told you so” when we look back on His faithfulness. And having shown this, we see a small way that He will ultimately provide the final victory. Besides, He said He would:

“And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” 5And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end…”(Rev. 21:4-6) 

Christ has the last word in all of this. Just wait and see.

 

See the original post: “Thoughts on my mother’s passing at Easter

MOVIE REVIEW: “GOD’S NOT DEAD”

God's not dead
You might want to think about a different instructor.”

The registration assistant glances down at the cross around Josh Wheaton’s neck, looks down at his class choice, raises an eyebrow, and adds, “Let’s just say you’re wandering into the snake pit. … Think Roman Coliseum. Lions. People cheering for your death.”

 Can’t say he wasn’t warned.

 While not exactly the Roman Coliseum, the movie “God’s not Dead”, certainly sets the stage for this poor guy to be eaten up alive.

The main character, Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), is a college freshman who finds his faith and courage immediately challenged by his atheist philosophy professor. It all starts when Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo), demands that everyone turn in papers saying, “God is Dead” so that he doesn’t have to waste time arguing that point. His class, his rules. And what he says, goes.

When Josh refuses, (and he is the only one who refuses) he is given an ultimatum. Either agree that god is dead or take the podium and try to convince the unsupportive class that God is not dead. (Funny, I thought the professor said he wasn’t going to debate that topic, but apparently he changed his mind).

Throughout the movie, Josh is bullied by the professor, cornered and threatened in a hallway, and nearly humiliated in front of the class. Despite losing his girlfriend and the mounting pressure to give in, he continues to stand firm in his conviction, drawing upon what I think is the scripture theme of the movie:

“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:23).

Some good takeaways from the movie:

  1. “God’s not Dead” does not leave room for interpretation or symbolism. It comes right out and speaks the name of Christ and His Scripture. It professes Jesus as Lord and Savior, which is huge in this world of relativism and vague universal-all-is-god-love-peace-mumbo-jumbo.

  1. It did a good job of portraying the theme of standing up for your beliefs by weaving several more characters who ended up doing just that, in their own ways.

      • A Muslim girl (Hadeel Sittu) is beaten and kicked out of her house by her father when she professes Christ.

      • A Chinese student (Paul Kwo) shocks his own father (who lives in Communist China) when he texts “God’s not Dead”

      • Professor’s Radisson’s girlfriend, who we find out converted to Christianity, finds the courage to break up with him.

  1. By allowing the audience to see past the hardened exterior of some of the characters, I was reminded that I can’t assume that anyone is beyond conviction, beyond God’s love.

  1. It drew an interesting parallel in showing how people can react differently to the same circumstance (dying of cancer). While one character became bitter at God, another one turned to God.

The weaknesses:

  1. This movie has gotten criticism for being overblown in its portrayal of Professor Radisson, and I agree. Maybe I’m naïve, but to have a professor demand signed papers saying “God is Dead”, and (on top of that), not having more than one student object to it seems implausible. At least not in the country…at least not yet.

From the exaggerated stare-downs and seething, disgusted “I loathe you” glares, to his red-faced outbursts, the character of Professor Radisson comes across as a one-dimensional caricature of the angry atheist — if not a little creepy that he has nothing better to do with his time than stalk his student.

I’m not sure how convincing this film is to anyone who isn’t faith-minded, simply because of the way the opposition is handled. Had the filmmakers been fair to Sorbo’s character and created him to be more reasonable and open to a thoughtful dialogue (i.e. more realistic), it may have evened out the playing field and drawn more viewers to honestly consider the question of God. As it was written, the atheist stereotype forces a shallow approach to the movie and probably puts outsiders on the defense. Think of this way – Christians are always poked fun of. Are we to do the same to our enemies?

  1. The aforementioned scene of a Muslim student being slapped and dragged out of the house by her strict father when he discovers that she is a Christian can be taken as a stereotype against Islam. I don’t believe it was intended to be, but it just shows the reality that has happened to some.

  1. In one of Josh’s lectures, he implied that God worked through the process of evolution to create man, which is a lie. My Bible says that God created man through Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis (Genesis 2:7, 2:22). Additionally, when Josh was asked why he was willing to risk so much to defend his faith, he answered “because Jesus is my friend, and I don’t want to let Him down.” While there is a sense that Jesus is our Friend, this answer alone is incomplete and weak. How about, “I’m doing it in obedience and love for my Lord and Savior”? It seems that we as Christians have become far too casual with God, using terms we could also use for a roommate we’re helping with a mid-term.

Despite these weaknesses, I am happy to hear the Gospel proclaimed in this movie and especially the story of redemption in the end. It has an especially fitting title as we come up to the Easter season. We may even add a line to our typical greeting:

“He is Risen”

“He is Risen, Indeed”

“Our God’s not Dead”

“He’s surely Alive”

Has anyone seen this movie? What are your thoughts? What would you do if you were in a similar situation? Would you step up to the challenge despite the cost?

A MISCONCEPTION ABOUT CHRISTIANITY

Do-gooder

Maybe I should have spoken up, but lately, I’ve heard people express the same misconception of Christianity, on a couple of different occasions.

They all have to do with an underlying idea that Christians are “do-gooders” living by rules for the sake of “being good”.

I refer to comments like, “Oh, they dance/drink? I thought they were a Baptist!” (as if that is all every Baptist is about). Sometimes this is followed by a sarcastic yet jovial, “oh, no, they’re going to hell now!”

But mistaking a lifestyle of principle and conviction for a mechanical “religiosity” is simply missing the mark. If that were so, the question becomes, “How good is good enough?” Does God grade on a sliding scale? How do we know if we have made the cut?

What I’d like to share is that obedience isn’t something you do or don’t do, it’s a desire woven into a heart that seeks to please Christ, and to share the hope of Christ, which is the gospel itself.

It starts with knowing that we are all sinners, fallen human beings not worthy of God, which is quite the opposite of “good enough”.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

So if I was almost perfect, never missed a Sunday, always volunteered at the soup kitchen, never did or thought anything “bad” except that one time way back when, I would still fall short of God’s standards, which is perfection. (Matt. 5:48).

Knowing that we could never measure up, God provided a bridge to Himself through Jesus Christ, who, being God in the form of a man, paid the penalty of our sin by dying on the cross and rising from the dead.

 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8

Christ died for our sins… He was buried… He was raised on the third day…(1 Corinthians 15: 3-4)

By faith, through grace we receive His sacrifice as the only way to reconciliation to God.

Which brings me to the reason for obedience.  That reason? An overflow of gratitude and a desire to share this good news. The funny thing is that even our ability to obey is God-given.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph. 2:8-10)

When we as believers reflect Christ, we are drawn into a closer fellowship with Him. We grow in our capacity to do His will, and show by the evidence of our lives that obedience is for our good and His glory. We experience the peace and joy that he described when He said,

“I have come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10)

Amen?

Has your faith or motives ever been misunderstood? How did you respond to that situation?

Next week: A subject most of us know far too well – Rebellion!

MY THOUGHTS ON MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY’S OSCAR SPEECH: IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK

I don’t know how one little Oscar speech has gotten to be such a study of social and spiritual dynamics for me, but the more I pondered Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar acceptance at the Academy Awards last week, the more I began to make some interesting observations about what was said, both on stage and in the media.

I don’t usually last through awards shows. I tune in here and there for the fashion, and I didn’t hear that Mr. McConaughey happened to mention God in his speech until it was online the next day.

“First off I want to thank God, because that’s who I look up to,” he said. “He’s graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand.”

That’s the clincher line, but here’s his whole speech:

Matt M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nsR3SJMc8Q

I don’t care for the spoof on heaven and I don’t get the whole “chasing me” thing, but overall it is an articulate speech from an actor who is obviously very comfortable in the spotlight. I’ll get to more about his words in a minute, but what I find intriguing are the comments that Conservatives and Christians have made in light of his nod to deity. They are mainly two:

1)    They suddenly want to praise and thank Matthew for being the light in a dark world.

2)    They are saying how Hollywood is shunning him and almost took his award away, how they were so confused that you could have heard a pin drop when he mentioned God.

Really?

Now, I think it’s great that he mentioned God. I think it shows a deep-set awareness that there IS a higher power, an awareness that God Himself put within each of us. (Romans 1:20). I believe acknowledgement of that awareness is commendable and it shows humility.

However, that is about as much as I can commend him for his statement. I can’t say much more because he didn’t tell us who His God is. Is it Allah? Is it Buddha? Is it the Great God only summoned with bongos while dancing in the buff”?

I’m even more confused as to which god he is thanking for the opportunity to star in a movie, which (according to pluggedin.com ) contains explicit sexual material, heavy drug & alcohol use, violence, and over 100 f-words.

In this world of relativism and tolerance, the mention of god can be nothing more than the nebulous accolade to the wonders of the Universe. Anything or anyone can be “god”, and any god can fit what you want him to be.

As a Christian, I have a different perspective. Christianity cuts through the fog by defining God as the God of the Bible. He is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and makes the specific and exclusive claim that Christ, and Christ alone can save and is the only way to eternal life.

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

When you say that to someone, you get disagreement. You get defensiveness. It may be divisive, but it is what the Bible says. This exclusivity is why so many are not vocal about the full gospel story.

My point is, let’s have some discernment and not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon and praise anyone and anything that happens to mention God if we believe Christ is the only way, especially if the speaker’s work or representation doesn’t match Biblical values.

I’ve also read other Christians and Conservatives getting on the bandwagon, all up-in-arms saying how Matthew McConaughey was “shunned” by Hollywood by the lack of applause he received.

While I definitely believe there are many who seethe at the mere mention of God, I also believe there’s more “tolerance” for this vague god, based on his speech alone. I doubt that he is going to be singled out for persecution in Hollywood. I wasn’t in that arena so I can’t say, but I’ve played the video a few times and I did hear (and see) applause.

My second point is this: Could it be that Christians and Conservatives can (at times) be quick to cry “oppression” at the first opportunity?

But let’s just say, hypothetically, that he was “shunned”, left to play in the Hollywood sandbox all alone.

Why are we surprised? Is it really a shock that maybe you might not get a standing ovation at the mention of God in a room full of people that work in an industry that celebrates running from God?

Yes, we live in a world that mocks and attacks the Christian faith. I cringe at what I hear on TV and yes, I believe in standing up for Godly values.

But am I supposed to whimper and cry because godless men don’t applaud the mention of god?

Ok, I should get off my soapbox now… really ya’ll, I just tuned in for the fashion!

* related blog:  http://yourmomhasablog.com/2014/03/03/matthew-mcconaughey-is-not-my-hero/

A STORY OF TWO BABIES

Dear Friends,

I first read this a few months ago and knew I had to re-post it here. It’s a conversation between two babies in their mother’s womb. One thinks there is no life after delivery, the other believes there is a brand new, greater world to come.

It’s an analogy that draws a brilliant parallel to the conversations we have heard between atheists and believers for years.

It seems incomprehensible that a baby doesn’t even realize the existence of its own mother or the evidences of the next life. You want to yell back, “Why can’t you see it?!”, and yet I wonder if that is how mankind seems to heaven when we don’t believe.

I searched to find the author’s name but couldn’t find one. If you know who it is, please share it, I’ll add the credit.

babies

In a mother’s womb were two babies.

One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?”

The other replies, “why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later….

“Nonsense,” says the other. “There is no life after delivery. What would that life be?”

“I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.”

The other says “This is absurd! Walking is impossible. And eat with our mouths? Ridiculous. The umbilical cord supplies nutrition. Life after delivery is to be excluded. The umbilical cord is too short.”

“I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here.” the other replies, “No one has ever come back from there. Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety and it takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” says the other, “but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us.”

“Mother??” You believe in mother? Where is she now?

“She is all around us. It is in her that we live. Without her there would not be this world.”

“I don’t see her, so it’s only logical that she doesn’t exist.”

To which the other replied, “sometimes when you’re in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her.” I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality.

*****************

As a Christian, there is one element missing in this story. No, no one has physically come back from death to tell about it. No one, that is, except Jesus Christ…and what He did paved the way for anyone who trusts in Him to have eternal (spiritual) life.

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)