Tag Archive: religion


Why do you want to be healed? For some the answer to this question might be quite easy. I Imagewant to live. I do not want to continue experiencing pain. I want more time. I need reprieve from my misery. These and many other answers motivate us to pray for healing…and these are honest motivators!

A second question will bring some clarity to this. Why did Jesus heal people? The answer might be a little less obvious and of course it is not easily settled into one sentence. However, a major theme surrounding the healings of Jesus was that they were to make his name and his ministry famous amongst the people and to draw attention to his Father.

DOES JESUS CARE?

Did Jesus care about relieving pain? Yes, I am sure that he had compassion for the sick…but he did remind us all “…in this life [we] will have trouble” (John 16:33). Did Jesus want to give people more time to live? I think he preferred that they have more time to repent rather than more days to live. Even Paul reminds us that to live is good but to die is to gain.

I do not want to condemn our past and present motives for healing prayers. Instead, I want to help us adjust our thinking about divine healing. I attended a conference earlier this year where Dr. Van Johnson (Dean of Master’s Pentecostal Seminary) suggested that the reason we do not see more of our prayers for healing answered is that we are praying with the wrong perspective in mind. Dr. Van suggested that if we are praying simply for our own well-being and to be saved from pain and suffering our heads and hearts are in the wrong place (my paraphrase of what he said). Miracles (such as divine healing) occur as a sign to unbelievers. In the aftermath people ought to be brought to Christ or brought deeper in Christ.

Notwithstanding what I have already stated about the frequency and occurrence or divine healing in Part I of this post, something in my heart resonated with what Dr. Van suggested here. I was convicted of my own perspectives and I was challenged to do something about it.

MY STORY

You see, while Dr. Van was speaking at this conference I was sitting in my chair with an appointment card in my wallet to see a surgeon…and I really did not want to go to that appointment. Early last fall I began to notice a lump on the left side of my back, up near my shoulder. The lump grew fairly quickly and caused a small about of concern for Mandy and I. My family doctor sent me for an ultrasound and confirmed that it was likely a benign mass (phew) but I should likely have it surgically removed.

I have never had surgery before. I am a little bit of a basket case when it comes to illness, especially when it affects my own body. I did not want surgery! I wanted to be relieved of the pain and suffering of this experience…not to mention the emotional turmoil of it all. So, I had the leadership and prayer team at EGCC pray for a month that this mass would shrink and disappear. Unfortunately it did not change.

The morning of my surgical consultation I prayed that this whole situation would receive closure that morning. I think I was ready to have the doctor cut it out that very day in his office if that is what it took! I prayed that whatever was required would just happen so that I could have closure. When I saw the surgeon he examined me and said that the mass would likely decrease without medical intervention and may actually be irritated and made worse by surgical removal. I was never more relieved. I received a measure of closure that very morning. My prayers were answered.

I still have to visit my friend the surgeon again at the end of August to ensure that things are still decreasing like he expected. My own estimation is that the lump has reduced in size and for that I am thankful. I am still praying that it would be completely gone some soon day…for now it is still there. I just checked.

CHANGED PERSPECTIVE

The reason I am blogging about this is because I am attempting to change my perspective. I am attempting to position myself so that healing in this area of my life will not simply save me the pain and suffering of surgery but also be a sign of God’s blessing and therefore make him famous amongst people. Blogging is my way of changing my perspective…and so I challenge you to consider how you can change the way you pray for healing also.

I think that everyone knows what a coincidence is. A technical definition would be that a coincidence occurs when any number of random and unrelated events occur together in such a way that something great and unexpected emerges. Implied in the understanding of a coincidence is that they are ‘accidental’ or ‘arbitrary’.

I am not sure if I believe that coincidences are purely accidental or arbitrary; I tend to believe that there may be a driving force behind some, if not all, instances of coincidence.

Let me go all Sheldon Cooper on your for a moment (if you do not know who he is, do not worry about it): it is a scientifically accepted fact that when natural processes are left on their own without any outside interference they tend to progress from a state of order to a state of disorder. In plain terms, a three year old boy left alone in his bedroom will always turn the bedroom from a state of ‘order’ into a state of ‘disorder’ unless impacted by an outside force (i.e. his parents). This basic premise forms the basis for the second law of thermodynamics and is known as the concept of entropy. This is why Sheldon Cooper describes Penny’s filthy apartment as a massive demonstration of entropy (again, if you do not know who these people are, its ok)

So, if we accept the idea that nature will tend to progress towards greater disorder rather than greater order when left on its own, how then do we explain a series of random events that actually produce something orderly, something productive or something great? How do we explain a coincidence?

I have been teaching on prayer at Emergency Ministries over the past month. I have challenged the students to begin to delve deeper in a life of prayer that pushes beyond simply pray for our meals and into the realm of praying for others and for us. I have challenged the students to expect to see answers to their prayers. To the skeptic an answer to prayer might be called a coincidence; however, when we pray we tend to see coincidences happen more often. Hmm…

Mandy and I experienced a prayerfully initiated coincidence this past week. Last Friday we were given a somewhat bad report at the doctor’s office; the baby seemed to be making signs like it was coming early and for that Mandy was placed on more strict bed rest. We prayed all weekend along with many others that this would be a full term birth without complications. At our follow-up appointment on Wednesday we discovered that the bad report from last Friday was misread by the nurse and things were much better than we had thought. In fact, Mandy’s order of strict bed rest was lifted and she is now back on reduced activities.

Was this a coincidence? If you have read this far you probably know how I feel about that.

Prayer moves the hand of God. Prayer reverses things in the natural even when it seems logically impossible. Prayer draws us closer to God and answers to prayer build our faith to pray for even greater things.

 

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16)

Lyrics from a song that I just heard recently say this: “…if you want it then go and get it…”. This is a song called “I Love Your Presence” that one of the music team members from Emergency Ministries shared with me a few weeks ago. It’s a shame that we didn’t use that song this past week because it summed up quite well what our guest speaker, Pastor Mark Colwell, shared with the students.

The Gospel of Mark records the story of a man named Jairus and an unnamed woman that was ill (commonly referred to as the woman with the issue of blood). Jairus was a well-respected man in the community and was a natural leader or trendsetter because of his position. The ill woman was an outcast because of her issue with blood; to bleed continually was to be unclean and this woman had been bleeding for 12 years. Enough said about that.

Jesus was a threat to Jairus’ authority because Jesus seemed to be presenting a spiritual message that overturned much of the Jewish legalism of the day. Therefore, when Jesus visited town Jairus would not pay much attention. Consequently, neither did the woman who had been bleeding for 12 year.

Something different happened one day; Jairus’ daughter was sick and dying and he had exhausted all the avenues that he knew of to make her well. And then Jesus came to town…there were rumors about the miracles that Jesus had done and Jairus thought that perhaps Jesus could help his daughter. In desperation he ran out to meet Jesus and plead with him to come heal his daughter. This was quite a statement because on Jesus’ other visits Jairus had likely seen him as a threat and not as an ally.

Jairus’ boldness in approaching Jesus inspired something else; the woman that had been bleeding for 12 years snuck up and touched Jesus’ clothes. Immediately she was healed from her issue of blood! Jesus turned around and said, “Who touched me?”. It was not enough that this woman had been healed by Jesus…what was most important is that she knew Jesus and had a relationship with him.

And all of this was possible simply because one man saw something he wanted and went after it.

The touch of Jesus is present and waiting for everyone. There is no one too ill, too bad, too stubborn, too prideful or too poor and depressed that Jesus cannot reach them. The challenge is this: if you want it, go and get it. It’s that simple.

Many people underestimate their influence on those around them. Many people think that if they choose to ignore God or refuse to open their lives to God it is only them that miss out. Imagine if Jairus had remained stubborn despite his daughter’s illness. Imagine if he had not acknowledged Jesus. Not only would his daughter have died and been buried…but the unnamed woman with the issue of blood would never have been inspired to reach out and touch Jesus to receive her healing and ultimately her relationship with Jesus.

If you want it, just go and get it. If you want to impact your friends and your school for Christ…go and get him in your life. The way you live for Christ will give permission and inspiration for those around you to live that way too!

My wife and I had a unique first experience just before Christmas last year: we experienced Black Friday shopping in Michigan for the first time in our lives. It was exhilarating, it was intense, it was LOUD, it was late…(we had to line up)…it was crazy…and at the same time I had so much fun. We picked up some really great deals on Christmas presents for our kids, presents for other people and a few things for us.

There were people present at WalMart that evening, however, who did not handle this shopping trip in the same light hearted nature that Mandy and I approached it with. There was swearing, pushing, light punching, diving on top of merchandise, evictions from the store by security and shopping carts EVERYWHERE.

Lets fast forward to Christmas morning: our kids got up and were amazed at the number of wrapped packages that filled the living room! We skyped with some family and then began to open presents. It went something like this: rip paper, look, set aside…rip paper, look, set aside…cry and scream because you want to play with a toy you just opened (me included)…but instead get another wrapped package placed into your lap to open.

As Mandy and I reflected on this first Christmas in our own home with our children we realized that it did not play out quite like we had wanted. We envisioned a quiet and peaceful time opening presents, making organized piles of everything and then playing with toys later in the day in an organized fashion. We were naïve…and quite wrong!

Recently I ran into the photo that I included at the beginning of the blog post. I was immediately reminded of my Black Friday shopping experience and subsequent Christmas morning chaos. There is a poignant truth conveyed by this photo that is quite impossible to relate in words. I guess a photo really is worth 1000 words.

I am not writing so as to condemn us for enjoying the blessings of life in Canada. I too enjoy a warm bed, more food than I need and many toys and gadgets that make life easier. I even enjoyed Black Friday shopping…and the 40” television in my living room that came as a result.

However…I also enjoy being a good steward of the blessings God has given me. I enjoy receiving our charitable donations receipts at the end of each year to see that with what God has given us we have been able to return a tithe and then some. I enjoy speaking with Phil and Donna Williams of Servant Heart Ministries; our church supports their medical and relief work in the Dominican Republic. I enjoy visiting the Dominican Republic and hanging out with people like Sandra Torino; though she has nothing she gives evenything back to those in her village of Auga Negra. She is a modern day Dorcas (Acts 9:36-42). I enjoyed taking Sandra out for ice cream one afternoon with our youth missions team and hearing her describe how special this was for her.

I enjoy the talk of giving a young girl in our community a baby shower to show her that we still care deeply no matter the choices she has made. I enjoy having friends over when part of their family is out of town and I enjoy hanging out with Benjamin’s friends for an evening while their family attends to a medical emergency.

These are the things that are necessary in life.

When we define necessity with greater depth than what can be found in a department store we suddenly find many more things to enjoy in this life and much more fulfillment in the way that we live.

When we become aware of the blessings that we can pass on to others we suddenly realize that in so many ways we can bring much joy and fulfillment to those that live around us.

Luke 12:48 “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Have you ever heard that great song “End of the World” done by Great Big Sea? I was amazed at how many students today have never heard of the band Great Big Sea…where has musical taste gone these days! Great Big Sea was a staple band when I was in university just 10 years ago; they even played at my wife’s high school prom and THAT was a BIG deal!

All of this to say that our culture today is really quite interested with how we all got here on earth (i.e. the beginning of the world) and also with how we are going to leave here (i.e. the end of the world). There have been so many predictions about the end of the world over the past 2000 years that if it was possible, I am sure that God would have succumbed to the peer pressure of it all and just ended everything already!

But then, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised about this apocalyptic obsession that we have today; Jesus told us to be waiting and be watching for the end to come. Jesus didn’t tell us to become obsessed however and he most certainly didn’t tell us that a few really smart people would figure it out someday and sound the alarm. If history has taught us anything it is that statistically, 100% of the entire end of the world predictions thus far have been inaccurate. I think that is a pretty solid trend that we can be confident about.

We currently are facing the most recent ‘end of the world’ prediction by Harold Camping of Family Radio; a California based broadcasting organization. Camping uses a number of biblical genealogies to determine the age of the earth and subsequently the ‘end of the world’ which will begin with the rapture of ~3% of the earth’s population on May 21, 2011 and the subsequent destruction of the earth on October 21st, 2011. Camping is no newcomer to this ‘date setting’ group; he also predicted the ‘end of the world’ in 1994…and obviously lived to tell about it.

I think the author of the Peanuts comic strip had the most interesting thing to say about predicting the ‘end of the world’:

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.” Charles Schultz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip.

There is some truth to what Camping is saying (i.e. that there will be great changes to us and to the world around us some day); however, there is a lot of myth associated with what he is teaching too (i.e. that we can know the time and the date). Here are a few facts to help set the record straight.

1. This “end of the world” will take place at some point.
Scripture is clear that Jesus Christ will come back at some point in the world; when he does come back a number of great things will take place. Those who are faithful and accept Christ in this life will have an inheritance of honor and rule with him in the life that comes next (Col 1:10-12). Those who are not faithful and reject Christ will be confronted with the reality that they were misguided and they will answer to God for this (Rev 20:12-13). Those who have previously died will be returned to life to either rule with Christ or answer to God depending on how they lived their life (1 Thess 4:13-14). Finally, there will be a new earth and a new heaven that will be void of all sickness, death and disease. It will be like restoration of the Garden of Eden from the book of Genesis; our bodies will also be restored to that Garden of Eden state (Rev 22:1-3, 21:1).

2. No one knows when this will take place.
For as many of the Scriptures that we have that describe what will take place at “the end of the world” there are those that tell us that we will not know the time…and that no one will. In fact, the bible teaches that the end will come like a ‘thief in the night’. Never have I known a thief to book an appointment ahead of time!

3. What should we do? We must be ready.
Each of us must ensure that we are living in such a spiritual state that we are prepared to meet Jesus when he returns. This is a serious and somewhat fearful thought, yet it must be considered. Remember that you do not have to be perfect; what is required is humble submission to Jesus Christ within which there is no condemnation (Romans 7:1).

Also, we should continue preaching the words of God to all those around us. This is what Jesus asked us to do when he left us.

So, don’t worry about these doomsday predictions: statistically you have nothing to worry about. However, pay close attention to the fact that while these recent predictions are based on shaky ground there is truth in the fact that Christ will return and he hopes to find his people ready.

Vampires

Many people found that this was perhaps a strange topic to address in a youth group. You know, what ever happened to talking about Moses, Elijah, Goliath…but vampires? Really?

Well, you see, these creatures of fantasy have captured the attention of the current youth and young adult population by their portrayal in popular media (i.e. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Vampire Diaries, Twilight, and so on). That being said, there are some aspects associated with our culture’s experience of vampires that runs against a biblical and Christian worldview.

So, while I am not endorsing a complete boycott of vampires in the entertainment industry (you can privately sort out your feelings about them) there are some thing that I want our students to be aware of before they get too caught up in the fantasy.

First of all, where did the whole notion of vampires come from? An individual was thought to be a vampire is when they died the natural decay process of their body did not progress as normal. Now, in the scientific age that we live in now, we understand that climate conditions and time of year play a large role in the decomposition of things; including human beings. This was the case when the legend of vampires began.

Often times the decay of bodies would release gas inside the corpse and thus puff up their features (like air in a balloon) and make them look more healthy or ‘alive’ than they were prior to their death; this was just an illusion however. Also, as water and other fluids escaped the corpse many of the fleshy portions would retract making it look like the teeth had grown, fingernails were longer and hair had grown. This too was just an illusion: it was the retraction of the flesh that made these appendances look longer.

So you see, vampires are not all that scary after all. However, it is more fun to pretend like they are. This urban legend eventually got picked up by fiction and fantasy writers in the late 1800s with the publication of the book Dracula by Bram Stoker and since then has been a popular figure within the fantasy world.

Even more interesting is the fact that there are legit communities of people in the world today that have adopted the lifestyle and practices of vampires…including drinking blood and manipulating psychic powers. This is my first word of caution with respect to the teen culture’s fascination with vampires:

There is a measure of Occultism associated with Vampires

The very origin of the vampire legend has demonic overtones with individuals coming back to life after spending time in the grave (often at the credit of evil spirits) and whose goal is then to act as a predator on humanity. Our biblical worldview does encounter this notion of individuals returning from death; however, the details are significantly different.

There are two instances in the book of Matthew where individuals both long in their graves and those in the tomb for just a few days have returned to life. Both of these are associated with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When Christ died there were many manifestations of this collision of the kingdom of God with the kingdom of earth and one of these was that many bodies of holy people who had died were raised back to life (Matt 27:50-53). The second occurrence of such an event was Jesus Christ himself who was raised up after just three days in the grave (Matt 28:5-7).

The difference between these experiences and those of vampires are several: there was no need to fear and people were immediately comforted following these biblical examples, those resurrected were not predators of humanity attempting to draw people into their realm of ‘undead’, and these events were not associated with evil spirits: they were initiated by the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, the current communities of individuals who practice ‘vampirism’ as a way of life today find much more in common (and they admit this) with Wiccans and the occult than with anything else.

Vampires live in a world without hope.

The present media portrayal and experience of vampirism in real life presents it as dark, secret, deep, hidden, exclusive, full of bondage and stuck in chains. There is no greater hope or desire of vampires but to find more blood and to bring others down into their misery.

The present world can feel hopeless sometimes and this is perhaps what draws people to vampires: they are hopeless creatures that somehow find meaning despite it all. This is not altogether a healthy way to cope with life however.

Teens use vampires as a means of emotional escape instead of dealing with life.

What people do to their minds and emotions when they adopt the whole vampire personality is the same thing that others are doing to their bodies when they take a knife and cut themselves. Life is full of hurt and pain…sometimes people do destructive things to themselves when dealing with this hurt and pain. Other times they emotionally disengage with the world around them and immerse themselves into a fantasy world.

Vampires are not the only aspect of fantasy that teens today revert to as a means of emotional escape instead of dealing with the world around them. Teens are notorious for escaping to video games, music, iPods, television, and other things in a chronic fashion that resembles more of a debilitating addiction than a harmless pastime. Over time such chronic addictions impair a teenager’s ability to be a functional member within society. This is unfortunate and needs to be recognized and reversed.

This is my challenge: love life and do not hide in fantasy.

John 10:10 “The thief comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. [Jesus comes] to give abundant life”.

Good morning readers! I have a bunch of things on my mind today and so I thought that I would let them all out for you to see and hear about. Here we go!

1. If you were in Monkey Barrel this past week we talked about VAMPIRES! No, we are not setting the Bible aside and now preaching from popular media. What we are doing is taking popular media and demonstrating how lines up or does not line up with a Biblical worldview.

Now that you are done having a heart attack about us talking of Vampires in Monkey Barrel, let me tell you what we talked about. First, we discussed the various occult-like beliefs and behaviors associated with the whole world of vampires and its somewhat close association with Wicca. These are things that our Biblical worldview tells us are very real and certainly not good, pure and noble pursuits. Secondly, we saw that there are a variety of other practices associated with Vampires that are perhaps not spiritually-related but nevertheless contradictory to our Biblical worldview. Finally, we noted that those who engage in a lifestyle of fantasy and use that as a mask to avoid the pain of real life here and now are not doing themselves any good whatsoever. We need to pursue life with Jesus Christ, not fantasy.

A full discussion about this will be posted next week once I present this material to the Emergency Ministries group.

2. The second thing on my mind today is the Royal Wedding! Not the dress, not the hats, not the people, not the ring, not the weather, not the kiss, not anything like that…..come on now, what about the Royal Wedding do you think I would deem worthy for including in this blog post? ……..the sermon by the Bishop of London! I encourage you to review a few excerpts from the wedding sermon delivered earlier this morning at Westminster Abby as I was quite impressed with the truth about love and marriage presented to millions of viewers today. You can see some excerpts at http://www.officialroyalwedding2011.org/blog/2011/April/29/The-Bishop-of-London-s-Sermon

3. The third and final thing on my mind this morning is a new blog series that I have been thinking about and will begin to write shortly. I want to put the idea out there now to increase your expectation and whet your appetite. I plan to write a series entitled “The Top 10 Threats to a Teenager’s Faith”. In this series I will draw from my experience of 10 years working with teenagers to highlight some common pitfalls I have seen over and over again with the anticipation that perhaps it may assist some teenagers and parents from repeating the mistakes that others before them have already made.

That’s all for this morning!

p.s. I have noticed that my Katy Perry post from well over a month ago is STILL getting many hits every day and is currently my most popular post. Perhaps you’d like me to review more artists in the near future?

Lets take a poll….

If I asked you how many Canadians would say that they believe in a God that is different than we are and has the ability to  control things that we cannot, how many do you think would indicate that they do? In 2003 a Harris poll of American adults and found that 90% of them believe in God. However, simply believing in God is not the point of the message of Jesus Christ.

If the question from the Harris poll was changed to ask how many American adults believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…the God of the Old Testament of the Scriptures, the same God we call Jesus Christ in the New Testament…I think that number would likely drop considerably.

You see, simply believing in God is not the same as putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Acknowledging that Christ’s death (which we celebrated last Friday) and resurrection (which we celebrated last Sunday) are the very things that guarantee that Jesus Christ truly can save us from the destructive choices and patterns of life that we see on earth today. Jesus can provide a life beyond all that we can see because he has power over death.

So, simply believing in God, belief in someone or something out there, is just not the point because that does not bring someone into a faith relationship with Jesus Christ.

James 2:19

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

It makes you wonder sometimes about the difference between faith in Jesus Christ and all the other gods and faith systems that surround us. Undoubtedly you are going to come up against people who feel that there is no difference between faith groups so long as you are sincere…after all there are some common practices that everyone adheres to, right?

Yes, there are some common practices and we are going to take a look at them. But is there something deeper that distinguishes faith in Christ? We’ll take a look at that too.

The Qu’ran says:

“Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is aware of all things” (Koran 33:40)

The Bible says:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

Muhammad is proclaimed to be the messenger of Allah; Allah is aware of what Mohammed is up to.

Jesus is also proclaimed to be the messenger of God; but Jesus is also a part of the living essence of God (the trinity is a whole other blog post!). God sent himself (Jesus) to interact with us personally as people.

The Qu’ran says:

“The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled…a duty imposed by Allah.” (Koran 9:60)

The Bible says:

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4)

Both Islam and Christianity require that their adherents give to a common collection so that it can be distributed to those who need it. Both are concerned with the common good of the people around them.

The Qu’ran says:

“…pilgrimage to [Mecca] is a duty unto Allah for mankind, for him who can find a way thither.” (Koran 3:97)

The Bible says:

“…[lets] not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

Islam asks its followers to gather together in Mecca for worship at least once in their life. Christians ask that we gather together in church and follow a process of discipleship together as we learn and experience Christ together.

There are certainly some things that we all do the same. Does that mean that we all accomplish the same goal so long as we believe in a God somewhere? Not really….

When the Apostle Paul was travelling throughout the world and preaching the message of Jesus Christ he came to Athens (yes, in Greece) and noticed that the people were very religious (they believe in God…). If that was the whole point he would have just left them alone there.

However, Paul did not. Instead, he stood up and said this:

Acts 17:22-2People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

Paul preached the message of Jesus Christ to them. Believing in a god is not the point…having a faith relationship with Jesus Christ IS the point.

Keeping that in mind, we should not get too excited that 90% of American adults believe in God. We should not get too excited if even 50% of our school would acknowledge belief in God and we should not get that excited that 100% of students present at Emergency Ministries raised their hands confessing belief in God (and 100% of you did…).

What is more important than simply believing in God is having a faith relationship with Jesus Christ. The different between this faith relationship and all other spiritual pursuits in our culture comes down to motivation:

We do not follow Jesus Christ because good things (law) is what he requires.

We do not follow Jesus Christ because our family or our country requires it (or even endorses it!)

We do not follow Jesus Christ just because we like the people who do or because Christian always have the best food.

Our motivation is this: we feel a deep sense and longing to love God and to love our neighbor. This sums up the basic message of faith in God. This is an internal motivation that will be demonstrated in the way that we live our lives. Sooner or later the fruit of our life (what is on the inside) will be shown on the outside in the way that we live.

Simply believing in God does not affect this fruit; having a faith relationship with Jesus Christ does!

Luke 10:27

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

I’m back on track: here is what I mean to say last night!

Remember that really unfair trick I pulled on all of you last night? Remember when I got you all to take a piece of paper out of a hat and two of you lucky people got gold stars? That meant that you and a friend could sit wherever you wanted to last night (like even on a comfy couch). It was just downright unfair!

Life can be like this sometimes, eh? School can be like this, church can feel like this…and I am sure that Emergency Ministries can feel like this sometimes. It can kind of feel like life is all about what special privilege you have or who you know.

I want to encourage you, however, that the message of Jesus has nothing to do with what you have or who you know. There is no special privilege that exists for just certain people (even for me!) and it does not matter who you know so long as you know Jesus Christ.

 

Romans 3:22-23

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

 

Different religious traditions have disagreed with this very basic notion and have stated that they way to advance in their ranks is to have something great (wisdom, intelligence, money, birthright) or to know someone who does.

The Hindu belief system organizes its people into a “caste system”. There are four classes: priests, nobles, peasants and manual laborers. Then there are those who are outside of the caste system and they are called out-casts.

Those who are born into a higher caste system have access to more spiritual and practical privilege and are believed to have lived better in their previous life to merit this great life now. (This notion of reincarnation is, by the way, completely outside of our Christian worldview. There is only one life here and now; we will move beyond this life but never return in this way again).

Moreover, the Hindu faith follows the law of Dharma, which states that if something has been a certain way it should continue to be that way. To move from one caste to another violates some sort of natural law of reincarnation (which, once again, is bogus).

The message of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with this oppression of some and privilege of others. There is no human being better than us and there is no human being below us. There are no castes. There is no hierarchy, there is no privilege, and there is no birthright. Jesus does not care who your parents are, what house you live in, what part of town you live in, whether crazy guys walk by your house with crowbars (inside joke…ask me about it), or anything else. Everyone comes to God on equal footing.

There are two other popular groups around us today that sometimes invoke (or use) the name of Jesus Christ but do so in a distorted way that does not reflect the truth about God.

Jehovah Witness:

Their belief system states that only a choice number of people will actually make it into the presence of God after this life: 144,000 to be exact. (This number is arrived upon by a misinterpretation of Rev 14:1) Others who follow the JW group but are not quite good enough to make into the 144,000 will get to live in a new Earth, but everything else will be destroyed.

So, everyone is striving to be within the elite 144,000 club. This is not equality before God but instead a competition to make it close to God. Unfortunately they tie this message in with the name of Jesus Christ.

 

Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints):

Faithful Mormon men will be exalted to godhood. The only hope for women is to be sealed in marriage to a Mormon man. It must be nice to be a man, not so much to be a woman. Again, a gross misinterpretation of a number of passages of Scripture is taking place…too many to get into here but stop by and we can chat about it.

Once again, this faith group does not promote equality but rather privilege and getting ahead by who you know (or in this case who you are married to).

Need I say it again: within the message of Jesus Christ there is no privilege, there is no hierarchy that you are placed in because of who your parents are, how old you are, how long you have been coming to church, how long you have devoted your life to Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 4:12

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

 

Galatians 3:28

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

This reality comes with great freedom but also great responsibility. There is nothing that can separate you from the love of Jesus Christ….but there are no automatic acceptance tickets offered just because your family is Christian or because you come to church.

Everyone stands before God as an individual and needs to make that choice to devote their lives to Christ or not. Everyone is actually making that decision continually in his or her life…you are both saying yes to Christ and growing daily in that relationship as you continue to say yes or you are saying no to Christ and are continually rejecting the growth that you could have in a relationship with Christ.

We closed the night last night praying for Jesus Christ to become the leader of our lives; some of us may have prayed that for the first time and others perhaps as a rededication. If you prayed that last night or if the reality of Jesus Christ has really been on your mind lately I want to hear from you!!! Send me an email, a facebook, a comment on this blog, a phone call…anything!

Have a great week! I look forward to the conversations that I will be having with many of you.

Sorry all my Emergency Ministries folks that it has taken me so long to get this post together an online; we had a special event on Friday night (which rocked!) and some other things got in the way. However, I have not abandoned you…here is “what I mean to say” this past week at Emergency Ministries.

There are just some things that are meant to be together, right? PB & J, babies and diapers, old people and handkerchiefs…those sorts of things. There is another pair of things that are absolutely necessary to be together; the message of God and Jesus Christ. You can’t have one without the other and if you try you will have a deficient message.

In his new book, Rob Bell sums up Christianity as this: “For God so loved the world…”. This, however, completely ignores Jesus Christ and his time on earth. It ignores the fact that Christ died and was resurrected (which is what we are celebrating at Easter). Basically, Rob Bell has decided that the message of God can go forth without Jesus (in some times and in some cases) and to that I must fundamentally disagree. Jesus Christ IS the message of God and it cannot be separated.

John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

So why would you want to remove or replace Jesus? Maybe people do not want to admit that they need someone, that they cannot always have everything together all by themselves. Some people have failed to realize that they are messed up just like everyone else; I guess being messed up is pretty normal. Some people just like church and how it makes you feel; they like the treats, the music, the friendly faces…but they are not interested in Jesus. Church is their social outing. Others reject the violence inherent in the story of Jesus and still more people think that the whole notion of Jesus is just a cute little kid’s story that is not real (just like Barney and the Wiggles…and thank goodness for that!).

Nothing, however, can ever replace Jesus Christ in the message of God. Why you ask? I’m glad you asked. Lets take a look at Jesus’ resume….

Jesus claimed to be sinless.

John 8:46 “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?”

2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

This is a central hallmark of Jesus: he lived as we did but did not sin. Jesus was born to a virgin (Mary) and was distinctly different in that while he was human he was not subjected to the brokenness of humanity. Jesus was tested in every way that we are; this should be encouraging for us because he gets it! He gets us! It could have something to do with the fact that he is…GOD. Which leads us to line number two on Jesus’ resume…

 

Jesus said that he is God.

Many other faith groups provide answers to questions that in some cases actually work. Muslims have ways to resolve conflict within their people groups; it is called Sharia Law and has proved to be successful in the governance of their own people.

Sharia deals with many topics addressed by secular law, including crime, politics and economics, as well as personal matters such as sexuality, hygiene, diet, prayer, and fasting. Where it enjoys official status, Sharia is applied by Islamic judges. (Wikipedia)

What Sharia lacks and what other worldviews lack is something greater than themselves for those times when things get too escalated and go beyond what they can handle as human beings.  When you have a conflict with another student at school, who does it go to? It goes to the Vice Principal, someone with a greater position, authority, age, and direction.

So, what happens when the greatest, oldest, most authoritative person on the earth encounters things that he/she cannot resolve on their own?  What happens when even Buddha and Mohammed do not have it all together? (Mohammed had to repent of several sins committed against the words of the Qur’an) What hope is there then?

The message of God says that there is hope in something greater than us…and that hope is in Jesus Christ.

John 8:19 “Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.””

John 14:9 “Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

Because Jesus is God and is greater than us, he can therefore do things that no human could ever do…like this:

 

Jesus can save us from sin and death.

We read the bible that sin leads to death. Imagine if God was the life giver and turning away from him was death. Imagine Rapunzel in the recently released movie TANGLED…her hair was the life giver and so losing access to it was tragic.

Jesus not only pointed out the fact that life apart from God is death, he showed us that God had the ability to overcome death! Jesus returned to the living after three days dead!

John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

Notice something interesting here; Jesus refers to himself and not just a group of teaching….he always say I!

 

Jesus points us to him, not just his teachings.

Jesus does not say that you need to be good people to earn his favor; we talked about that last week. Jesus does not say that there are rules that you have to do all by yourself in order to make him happy. In actual fact, he points to himself and not a list of teachings.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

John 8:12 “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus presents himself and invites people to get to know him. Jesus says that there is a spiritual part of you the needs to be fed; he wants you to feed it with him.

So, embrace and feed that spiritual part of yourself. Feed it with Jesus, the one whose resume has shown that he is greater than us and therefore can be there to do the things that we cannot.

 

p.s. Next week I will endeavor to be more prompt!