Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘what is faith’

Doctor! Doctor!

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Everybody agrees God is a loving God.  That’s a distinctive teaching  of the Bible; not Hinduism or Buddhism or Taoism, and certainly not Islam.  In the face of ancient people who had been taught their gods were petty, indifferent, impersonal or always in a rage, God has made scriptural promises like, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

But where did we get this lame idea that God is a magical doctor with a pill for every pain, and a prescription for every problem?  I happened to visit my doctor (seriously) for a check up today. He loves Jesus so we always wind up talking about the Father and the faith.  He mentioned the Christian priest from India who was crucified by ISIS on Good Friday.  Then a couple of days later, the Taliban bombed a church in Pakistan during Easter worship: eighty Christians died instantly.  What about that?

  • Here in America, we run to God with the slightest inconvenience, at the first hint of a dark clouds on some distant horizon.
  • We justify this by insisting God wants us to talk to Him about everything. He loves me so much that he will give me a parking place at a crowded mall if I pray, right?
  • The principle here is not that God cares more about martyred saints in distant lands than he does about the minor issues of life in America.
  • What’s wrong here is that I care more about my little irritations and emotional mood swings than I do about the life and death catastrophes facing other believers in very real places at this moment.  Are they family or not?
  • Would I ever be willing to suffer profoundly for the eternal good of others and the advance of the Kingdom of Light?
  • The truth is that my instant-answers god-therapist rushing in to fix every problem if I complain in faith is a creature of fantasy, not the God of the Bible.

“Hey God, my boss refuses to give me a raise, and he’s warned me not to talk about my faith at the office!  This is persecution!  What are YOU going to do about it?”  No wonder God is often silent.  Our self-indulgence doesn’t deserve a reply from the God of Creation.

It’s so embarrassing, but so true: the American religion really is therapeutic, moralistic deism.  That is, if I believe that God is real and if I try to be nice, he will protect me from all pain and suffering, and provide an instant miracle-cure for any discomfort that might befall me!  I don’t need God to be good and certainly not to be happy.  I just need him in a pinch.  He is my eternal EASY button.

  • It’s not just them, it’s me too.
  • Sometimes I find myself whining about some human slight and praying for a pill.

I could remind myself, “It could be worse.”  But faith promises, “It will be better. Just endure for a while.”  Small souls compare their suffering to the plight of others, but large souls have a different perspective. After years of arrest and beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, snake bites, and other close calls, Paul had this to say: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Faith is truth forged by fire in human hearts.  Courage is a motivating force , but faith is made of sterner stuff.  Faith makes the soul bullet proof.

Where was God when they nailed that unshaken Indian saint to a cross on Friday? The same place he was when they nailed His only begotten Son to a cross on Good Friday. He was ruling the heavens; shaping history to enlarge His Kingdom and save the whole world. That’s the best thing a loving Father could do.  It will be better.  So I have resolved to endure for a while.

And lift up the Cross!

 

 

 

 

 

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God Bless Jack Bauer

JACK BAUER

How does he do it?  In a hostile world filled with violent  fanatics determined to bring the USA to its knees, Jack Bauer always manages to bring us to our feet with applause.  It’s just a TV show, but 24 reminds us that the truth is out there: undiluted, unbeaten and just  below the surface.  Monday night, our hero returns to rescue us from a bunch of high ranking feds who are drunk with power and convinced that nothing is sacred.  It may take a few hours, but we already know that J.B. will restore strength and honor to the corridors of Washington, D.C.

Nobody can succeed that often!  Think about it: Jack Bauer faces more threats, endures more brutality, and wins more gun fights in a day that veteran Navy Seals do in a lifetime! Yet he not only manages to run the table every single hour, but he looks credible and believable doing it!  Why is that, and what could you and I learn from his utterly improbable successes?

  • He will do whatever it takes.  Nothing intimidates him: not a ticking bomb with only 30 seconds left on the clock; not a squad of 100 highly trained, well-armed militants lurking by the highway to ambush his motorcycle.  He is confident that his training and instincts will sustain him.
  • The man is not afraid to be misunderstood.  Friends and co-workers often fear he has surrendered to the darkness. Even his trusted ally Chloe O’Brian occasionally worries he has finally gone over the edge. But Jack baffles the people around him because he sees reality more clearly than they do, and is more passionate about the cause he has been called to defend.
  • Jack has mastered the weapons in his arsenal.  Sure, he can handle assault rifles with the best of them, but he also knows knives, explosives, poisons, ropes, and ax handles!  He is effective in any situation because he is more than confident- he is competent.  For Jack, luck is what happens with preparation meets opportunity.

In the Church of Jesus Christ, you and I are certain that Truth is liberating and Jesus is Lord.  But we haven’t generated much inspiration in the eyes of the watching world lately, perhaps because we often appear to be intimidated, insecure, and incompetent.  There’s a limit to how far we will go for the Gospel because we take comfort in busy schedules and respectability. We dare not risk being misunderstood because we have been seduced by the lie that image is everything and nobody likes extremists. Thank God Jack Bauer is willing to look like a fanatic!  And finally, we are more familiar with the ins and outs of smartphones and soft drink dispensers than we are with the Sword of Truth, the breastplate of righteousness or the shield of faith.  The Bible is just so old school, even when it’s a new app on your I-phone, but those crazy little high tech game apps are absolutely addictive!

The field of counter terrorism doesn’t need many guys like Jack Bauer because one or two can turn the tide.  And the Kingdom of God has never required millions of saints like Stephen or Paul or William Tyndale or Joan of Arc.  A handful are always enough at any critical moment, but I really want to become one of the few.  Don’t you?  God grant us the courage to seize an opportunity, face it with relentless abandon, and rely tirelessly on Him to turn the world on its head!

Lift up the Cross!

Just Call Him Daddy

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”  -Brennan Manning

There are many reasons why the Christian Faith quickly took the world by storm and soon became the largest religion, the only one without a regional or cultural identity.  One reason is the way Jesus taught his disciples to address God “Our Father in Heaven.”  Christ set the precedent of calling God, Abba, which was the term for Daddy.  In all the centuries and all the empires leading up to the time of Christ, pagans had known their gods by many names, but never as Daddy.  Almost universally, the ancients offered sacrifices to appease the gods, not out of any sense of love or affection.  The gods cared about nations, not individuals.  And pagans never imagined themselves sitting a some divine figure’s lap; they wanted the gods off their backs.

Then Jesus broke all the rules.  He explained that the Most High God, the only true God, cares about individual men and women.  He encourages us to call upon him in prayer.  He even knows what we need before we ask.  Accepting that amazing fact, we are suddenly able to realize that God loves us so much he actually wants to hear from us.  Did you catch that?  The God who already knows everything doesn’t need to hear from us.  He wants to hear from us.

The Christian Faith is often overlooked because it values the human soul in a sensuous culture where people fixate on the shapely body.  We lurch hither and yon like those now familiar zombies from Night of the Living Dead.  Our bodies are decaying day by day, but in this materialistic culture they seem to be all we have!  We check our watches every hour and our Smart Phones every five minutes, but we never check the condition of our souls.  Here’s the rub: your soul doesn’t die but it can be twisted and tortured.  For some of us, that all happened when we were kids.

Maybe your earthly parents neglected you because of ambitions or adolescent yearnings never satisfied.  Or maybe they failed you because they, too, were so damaged they had nothing of substance to offer you.  Or maybe you suffered at the hands of some nameless adult much bigger than you; some fractured monster who made you the object of his boundless lust, his shameless violence.

Here’s one of the overlooked truths of the Gospel: when Jesus Christ comes in to take care of your sins, he also removes of the toxins from your heart, even the ones stored there by other people.  Jesus is powerful enough to help you with the rage, the shame, the guilt, the fear.  He will lead you to the Heavenly Father who may very well have nothing in common with your earthly parent- just a title.  The title may be the same, but his address is very different, and he has a different approach to parenting.

The Eternal God has the time to hear you and the power to heal you.  Recognize your “father hunger,” and run to Him.  Read Psalm 51 aloud and talk to the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God.    If you have a friend who still carries the baggage of a shameful, agonizing childhood, send him or her this link.  When the Heavenly Father embraces lost souls, he does wonders for broken hearts.

Lift  up the Cross!

It’s Not What you Know….

What you believe about Jesus Christ is vital.  If you believe he is obligated to reward your faith with riches, perfect health, and a Hollywood lifestyle, you will be bitterly disappointed.  If you imagine him angrily firing spiritual darts at sinful people 24/7, you will tend to be harsh and too critical of other people.  And if you are convinced Christ is so cool and chill that he doesn’t really care how anybody lives on a day to day basis, you will most likely be an enabler, quietly encouraging others to delay in seeking the Lord.

So please make no mistake: good theology is essential for healthy Christian living.  But sometimes we overlook the simple biblical truth that we are not saved by the facts we believe.  Over the years I’ve known at least a couple of miserable church members who were quite well versed in the Bible.  Both could quote Bible verses, but both were angry, critical, caustic individuals who hated others because of church politics.  Their theology sounded right, but their lives made the Church of Jesus Christ look angry, corrupt, petty, unforgiving, and unloving.  They could quote the words of Jesus, but clearly knew nothing of his Spirit or his transforming power.  How does that happen?

In Mark 5:28 a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years comes to Jesus Christ for help.  She knows little about him- almost entirely what she’s heard from others.  She has concluded that if she simply touches the hem of his garment, she will be healed.  Such an outcome is promised in neither the Law nor the Prophets.  So it’s clear there’s a certain amount of superstition in what this suffering woman believes about Jesus Christ.  But the power of that amazing Messiah reverses her illness and instantly restores her to health.

In John 9:17 Christ heals a man who was born blind.  When the man is later asked his opinion about Christ, he replies, “I think he must be a prophet.”  That’s not true.  Christ is much more than a prophet- he is the long awaited Messiah.  But this healthy man will be able to unpack all that theology over years of faith and study.  When he first comes to Christ, he knows little more than the fact that he is a sinner and Jesus is a Savior.  That’s what he’s counting on.  The rest he will learn through the Spirit.

Sometimes we reach the strange conclusion that we are saved by the wonderful things we believe- about the people in the Bible, about the death of Christ, about the miracles of the New Testament.  We accept all those things as facts, but – needless to say- Satan knows all those things are true.  Believing the facts about God hasn’t helped the Devil at all!  Why should it help you and me?  Being able to embody the truth of Christ only happens when I meet Jesus Christ and he sends His spirit into my life.

True faith, childlike faith, is about trusting Christ so completely that we must go after him.  I am so convinced that He is the Truth that I reach out to him, count on him, rise or fall by trusting him.  I became a believer when I was five years old.  All these years later, I have read the Bible through many times and have gained tons of insight into what God is like, what is true, and what is important for human life.  I have a fuller and more complete theology than I could ever have imagined when I was five years old, but I was just as saved then as I am today.

Ideas are powerful, but they’re not powerful enough to pay for your sins.  Only Jesus could do that.  When we put our faith in Him, he will lead us to all truth and wisdom (John 16:13.)   But when we first begin, it’s not about facts.  It’s about faith in a particular person.  A grain of that kind of faith even the size of a mustard seed can cast mountains into the sea and get sinners into the Kingdom of Heaven.  The faith isn’t that great but the Savior is.

Lift up the Cross!

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