Christianity 201

August 26, 2015

Why Choose Christianity?

 Acts 26:1 ESV So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently…

Why Choose Christianity and Not Something Else? Or Nothing Else?

2295355354_e65354babd_nby Clarke Dixon

Why would we choose to be a Christian and not something else? Why follow Jesus when there are so many other options including an attempt at following no one? With so many religions, how can we settle on one, or should we even settle on one? One answer appeals to the tension that exists between naturalistic explanations and supernatural explanations.

There are perfectly good explanations for how the vast majority of religions arose, explanations which make no appeal to the supernatural. For example, it is not hard to see how ancient myths involving a pantheon of gods arose out of need to understand things beyond understanding. Bad things happen because the gods are angry, sometimes at humans, sometimes at each other. As understanding increased, the gods were pushed out as being not a very good explanation of the facts. The naturalistic explanation, saying “men came up with myths about Zeus and others” fits all the data we have available much better than an appeal to a supernatural explanation; “men spoke about Zeus and the rest because those gods were real.” Similarly, to say “Islam arose because Muhammad was impressed with neither the people nor theology of Jews and Christians and so founded his own religion” fits all the data available better than “Islam exists because Allah revealed himself to Muhammad.”  We can follow similar lines of reasoning for 99% of all the world’s religions. In this sense, atheism is a powerful ally to Christianity for the atheists help us make the case for why we reject the vast majority of religions. We should note that in fact the early Christians were accused of spreading atheism! They were going around saying that all idols and myths were human invention.

However, for Christianity, the supernatural explanation provides a better explanation of all the available facts than the naturalist explanation. To give some examples:

  • The supernatural explanation accounts for the amazing consistency of the Biblical message despite the many authors writing over many, many years, from different contexts, writing for different purposes. There is a simple explanation of this: the scriptures are “God breathed.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for why people in the days following the death of Jesus were going around saying “Jesus is risen, I have seen him” and were willing to die for that claim. Appeals to hallucinations and/or fabrications do not account for the facts very well.
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for sudden birth and rise of an unexpected Christianity theology. The theology of Christianity is not what you would expect from Jewish scriptures and expectations, but it is what you would expect from Jewish scriptures and expectations plus the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for the staying power of Christianity and why so many people over so many years have some claim of a personal relationship with God through Jesus. The Christian message was not popular to either Jews or non-Jews from the get go. And yet it caught fire and continues to do so today despite still being unpopular to the point of persecution throughout the world. Yes, other religions have had staying power also, but you can come up with naturalistic explanations for this. Christianity would have died out ages ago if God were not in it.
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for the big questions like “Why is there something rather than nothing? Why is there life when the odds are against there being such? How did the universe get started? Why is there something startlingly different about humans compared with other animals? Why is there such a strong yearning for purpose among humans? Why do humans reflect on morality so much? Why is there evil and what can be done about it?” Naturalism struggles to explain what Christianity simply and  profoundly answers.

Within the Bible itself we find an example of this tension between a natural and supernatural explanation. In Acts 26 Paul shares with King Agrippa, the local governor Festus, and many others how he came to be a Christ follower including his experience of the risen Jesus. But at some point Festus has had enough: “And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.’” (Acts 26:24) With that Paul says “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” (Acts 26:25) Here we have a tension between a naturalistic explanation given by Festus; ”Paul, you are mad, no gods here,” and a supernatural explanation from Paul: ”Jesus appeared to and spoke with me.” Paul could have gone for a naturalistic explanation himself “perhaps the stress is getting to me and so I had some sort of hallucination.” However any naturalistic explanation could not fit all the facts, including the fact that his companions experienced something also, “we had all fallen to the ground,” (Acts 26:14) not to mention Paul’s further experience of regaining sight through the ministry of a Christian (Acts 9:10-19). No naturalistic view could account for these things.

So why Christianity and not another religion, or no religion? Why follow Jesus and not someone else, or no one else? Because Jesus rose from the dead, because Christianity is true. That Jesus rose from the dead and that Christianity is true makes the best sense of the all the facts we have. Yes there are naturalistic explanations offered for the rise and spread of Christianity and they are many, diverse, and complicated. But there is a simple explanation that covers all the facts, the supernatural one; Jesus rose from the dead. How should we respond when people say we are crazy for believing in the supernatural? Just like Paul did with Festus: “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” (Acts 26:25)

There is one more thing we should mention about all this. There is no religious perspective that if found to be true could offer more hope, both for this life and the next, for more people, than Christianity. That Jesus rose from the dead and Christianity is true is not just a rational conclusion, it provides for an amazing hope in God’s amazing grace.

All Bible references are taken from the ESV.
photo credit: Interfaith Banner via photopin (license)

September 11, 2014

Taking Jesus at His Word

Matthew 4:18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

Matthew 8:21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Matthew 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

Matthew 10:38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me

I have to say I love lists. Maybe it’s the over-simplicity of “Ten things that…” or “Five reasons you…” but my brain processes things that way.  David Leung, a local pastor in our area had this on the landing page for his church website:

Day-to-day as I reflect on the gospel of Jesus, I am excited about the church.  It is evident from his teaching and ministry that Jesus believed another world was possible.  The Kingdom of God: a realm of radical love, acceptance and care that would bring restoration to a fallen world.

What if Jesus really meant it when he said,

  • God loves us? (John 3:16)
  • His Holy Spirit would be with us? (John 14:16)
  • His Kingdom was at hand? (Luke 10:9)
  • Doing it his way would set us free? (John 8:32)
  • We could come together as one? (John 17:22)
  • We would have a reputation of genuine love? (John 13:34)
  • Good news for the poor and oppressed was at hand? (Luke 4:18)
  • We didn’t have to be afraid? (John 14:27)
  • We didn’t have to worry? (Luke 12:-22-34)
  • We could be forgiven? (Luke 5:20)
  • We could live forever? (John 11:25-26)
  • God answers prayer? (John 15:7,16)
  • Jesus has won (John 16::33)

Jesus’ claims are too important to overlook.  Our world needs this!  Our communities need this!  Our families need this!  I need this!

We believe that all this has been made possible through Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection.  We believe that this is real.


So are we willing to trust Jesus’ promises?

As I continued thinking about this theme of taking Jesus at his word, I was reminded of the song I Will Follow by Chris Tomlin. This is the acoustic version.

Where you go, I’ll go
Where you stay, I’ll stay
When you move, I’ll move
I will follow…

All your ways are good
All your ways are sure
I will trust in you alone
Higher than my side
High above my life
I will trust in you alone

Where you go, I’ll go
Where you stay, I’ll stay
When you move, I’ll move
I will follow you
Who you love, I’ll love
How you serve I’ll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow you
I will follow you

Light unto the world
Light unto my life
I will live for you alone
You’re the one I seek
Knowing I will find
All I need in you alone, in you alone

In you there’s life everlasting
In you there’s freedom for my soul
In you there joy, unending joy
And I will follow

February 6, 2014

Breaking the Predictable Ministry Pattern

Luke 5:1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,  the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Today we pay a return visit to the Living Truth website, the ministry of Charles Price, pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto. You can read this at source here.  For broadcast times of Living Truth in your country, click here.

“He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” —John 21:6

Just when we think we’ve got it all figured out we have to shake our heads in awe. What is there about Jesus that will surprise us almost every time?

In Luke, Chapter 5, Jesus tells Peter to go out into the deep and let down his nets for a catch. It’d been a long night. They hadn’t caught anything, and Peter was reluctant, but followed Christ’s instructions. Then in John, Chapter 21, Jesus stood by the Sea of Tiberias, and called out to His disciples, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they replied, and He said to them, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

On both occasions, the disciples were hesitant and sceptical, but after obeying Jesus’ instructions, they were left in awe of the massive amount of fish they had caught. Why do we think the disciples were fishing out of one side of the boat? Because that’s what they always did. In the process of fishing for people, we like to work in the same way; reduce it to a predictable pattern, because that’s how we’ve learned to do it; however, it does not require the initiative of God. We often diminish the work of God by doing what we’ve done before, and then wonder why we’re not catching any fish.

We have to allow the Lord Jesus, Himself, to be the origin of how we are going to reach out to people. We can’t tie Him down to familiar methods or programs that have met with success before. We simply will not be fruitful operating in automatic mode. Jesus is original every time, and it’s when our relationship with Him is alive and fresh that He initiates, directs and enables. We should not be looking at patterns, but at the principle that lies behind them. The patterns we bury, but the principle remains the same. And that is in our obedience and dependence on Christ, we give Him freedom to operate through us in His way and His time.

Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” That means we keep in step with Him. Then He says, “And where I am, my servant also will be” (John 12:26).The fixed point is always Jesus, and keeping in step with Him will sometimes take us to unexpected places in unexpected ways. In relationship with Jesus, we learn to discern His will, reading into it all the circumstances of divine providence and divine initiative that works out His purpose. That often means casting our nets in different ways and in different places. It’s when we wait for His direction and follow His leading, that again and again, Jesus will astound us.

Matthew Henry writes:

He from whom nothing is hid, no, not [even] the inhabitants under the waters (Job 26:5), knew on what side of the ship the shoal of fishes was, and to that side he directs them. Note, Divine providence extends itself to things most minute and contingent…

Charles Price’s devotion concludes:

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, You amaze me again and again, and I pray, Lord, that I will always be able to discern your voice and follow your leading. Thank You, Lord.

TO REFLECT UPON: How has Jesus led me in an unexpected way?

September 3, 2013

Trusting God in a World of Fears

In the hunt for great devotional and Bible study content, today we introduce a new writer, David Rupert who blogs at Red Letter Believers.  This appeared recently under the title, How Real is your Fear of Failure?


There are at least two thousand known phobias. From Novercaphobia (fear of your step-mother) to Pogonophobia (fear of beards) to Syngenesophobia ( fear of relatives,) there’s a named fear for nearly everything in our lives.

fearfactor_240But for babies there are really only two measured fears – fear of falling and a fear of loud noises. Everything after that point is learned.

After a stint in my crawl space and another in the attic, I found my fear. Stenophobia, a fear of narrow places. Or perhaps it’s Claustrophobia – a fear of confined spaces. I don’t know where I got those fears, but they are real. I remember being locked in the trunk of my mom’s 69 Oldsmobile once, courtesy of a little brother who dared me to jump in. That might have had something to do with it.

I have a few other fears that pop up every once in a while, but the fear of failure is a biggie. And this is a terrible thing for a writer to have. “Will anyone read this. Will they like it? Will it make sense? Am I using the right voice? Am I using too many question marks?” Failure dogs every step of the writer’s life.

Our learned fears come from letting someone down at some point, of not living up to lofty expectations of a coach, a parent, or a teacher. It comes at the hand of imperfect man or woman living in a narrowly defined world of rules and regulations. It comes from letting myself down.

I could name off a half-dozen events in my life that seem to be markers in my mind – failures. The fence fell, the train came off the track, the cork blew, or whatever expression you want to use – I let others down. I disappointed God. I failed myself.

But Eric Parks, preaching on failure, said this. “You are not defined by your mistake – or series of mistakes. That’s not who you are in God’s eyes.” According to Eric — and God – the battle for failure is less about reality, and more about perception.

This is isn’t some feel good philosophy. It’s the truth. Satan loves to dig in and whisper in my ear, repeating the same tape in my brain of failures, disappointments, and bombs that I’ve lobbed into my life.

That’s why, every day, I have chance to start again. I have a chance to “be transformed by the renewing of my mind.”

Now, I won’t be a success at everything. I can’t slam dunk a basketball. I can’t start a fire quicker than Bear Gryliss. I can’t grow a Duck Dynasty Beard. But just because I can’t do something well – – or at all – doesn’t make me a failure.

What are you afraid of?

———

What He Said

Consider these verses:

Philippians 4:8 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

2 Corinthians 4:16 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Ephesians 4:23 

And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Philippians 4:6-7 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:2 

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

July 16, 2012

Living a Life of Faith

Tim Schraeder is literally on a faith walk. What started as a short trip to Australia has turned into a three month stay. Sometimes when you’re at a place like that in life, scripture verses suddenly take on greater meaning. As I tried to find ways to edit this into the usual form here at C201, I decided it was better to just leave it as is, but more than ever, you’re encouraged to read this at source, so you can click to see some of the posts that led up to this part of the journey. This appeared under the title Walking By Faith.  (Here, scriptures have been highlighted in green as we do every day.)

Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you.  – Jeremiah 1:5 (Message)

So it’s been nearly a month since my somewhat cryptic blogpost about my move to Australia. So far things have been incredible and I wish I could tell you everything… but I can’t! Haha. What I can tell you, though, is that God has been teaching me a ton, growing my faith, and revealing His grace and faithfulness in my life is some pretty major ways.

I reckon [notice how much Australia is already rubbing off on me?] if any of us tried to predict our future, our plans would come up short of the great plans and purpose God has for our life and days here on earth. As much as we can try to plan ahead and prepare, there’s no way of knowing what each new day will bring with it, and more importantly the purpose God has woven into it.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29.11

Every single day we have new opportunities and new connections at our fingertips. The world around us is getting smaller and our ability to make an impact is even greater.  What is possible today was inconceivable a decade ago, and where the days ahead have the potential of leading us is beyond what we can imagine.

“No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—What God has arranged for those who love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2.9

That being said, the question we all have to answer is this: what will we do with our days? Or more importantly, how will we spend time? I’m learning, sometimes the hard way, that one of the most dangerous prayers we can pray when it comes to that question is, “Lord, have your way.”

…and Jesus prayed, “let our kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” – Matthew 6.10

Praying a prayer like that [and meaning it] makes it clear who really is control of our lives and the choices and decisions that we make. It determines how we spend our time and what we give our energy and attention to. And it determines the direction we walk, oftentimes that means we will be following a narrow path. Your friends and family may think you are crazy, the world and culture may think you are out of your mind, you may even think your’re crazy yourself, but stay faithful to God’s call and the winds of the Spirit in your life.

“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life.” – Matthew 7.14

I don’t have much experience in life, only about 30 years so far, but in my short time I’ve discovered that faithfully following the path God sets before will lead you on an adventure greater than you could have never imagined or planned yourself. Regardless of where life has you today God could very well be preparing you for a tomorrow you couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Life can seem routine or mundane, but it’s often by staying faithful in those ordinary places that God can bring about the miraculous and extraordinary in your life.

“you’ve crowed the year with your goodness and your paths drip with abundance…” – Psalm 65.11

These last six weeks I’ve been living a dream. Literally. I would have never believed God would have blessed me with the opportunity I have to be doing what I’m doing right now. At the same time, it’s forced me to live life more in the moment and more reliant on God’s grace than ever before. I’ve relocated around the globe and immersed myself in an experience and opportunity that seems so far above my ability and strength. But God, by His mercy, has blessed me beyond what I could have imagined… He’s given me faith to trust He will provide, courage as I’ve stepped out in faith, and peace to know He’s with me every single step of the way.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6 

I’m taking lots of notes through this experience and know I have many more things to learn along the way. I don’t know what to expect on the road ahead but believe l’m becoming more alive to the purpose God has for me and trust He’s leading me closer to becoming the man I know He created me to be.

~Tim Schraeder

May 24, 2012

Cultural Overlay Adds Depth to Familiar Bible Story

The majority of Jesus’ disciples may have been fisherman, but generally, we see a kind aqua-phobia among the people of that region.  I was reminded of that this week when I decided to check back with Kevin Rogers’ blog, The Orphan Age, where this appeared under the title

WAKING UP TO THE CHAOS DRAGON
It’s good to be well rested because you never know when your strength will be tested. Consider the disciples with Jesus in the midst of a brutal storm. With their strength being exhausted bailing a swamped boat, their sense of peace was gone.

Mark 4:

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Tom Boomershine is a Bible scholar who gives us an interesting perspective on this story. The fear of the fisherman may have had a spiritual twist to it.

The chaos dragon lived in the sea and a common belief in the ancient world was that storms in the sea were caused by the sudden rising of the chaos dragon. 

Storms were a kind of tidal wave caused by the great dragon, a symbol for the cosmic powers of evil.

The chaos dragon is in the background of stories in the Old Testament and some of the Psalms. The story of the flood in Genesis reflects the Ancient Near Eastern myths of the chaos dragon. It is a sign of the powers against God. Contemporary movies have developed a large repertoire of signs of the powers of evil.[i]

Even though they were with Jesus, these fishermen grew up on stories from many sources about the dangers of the sea. What evil power was at work seeking to destroy them?

Were they thinking about Jonah who was awakened by the sailors when a violent storm threatened to destroy them? They were not spared until Jonah confessed his wrongdoing and had the men throw him overboard into the frothing chaos.

The disciples waken Jesus and frantically yell over the howl of the storm, “Don’t you care if we drown?”

Have you ever prayed like that? You are facing a life storm that has the capacity to destroy you and you cry out to God asking if He cares. Sometimes there is faith enough to believe that God is with you, but not enough faith to believe that God cares about the fearful circumstance. God may be nearby, but you are going down and cannot understand why God is sleeping.

“Don’t you care if we drown?”

The truth is that Jesus does care. It is God’s preference that none would perish. But in the threat of destruction we lose our ability to see love. How can a loving God allow this to happen? Fear and anger howl like the storm drowning out the quiet-natured presence of peace. Jesus is here, but why is sleeping at a time like this?

“Don’t you care if we drown?”

Jesus cares.

April 16, 2012

Tempted by Good

From Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires and the Lies You’re Believing by Pete Wilson (Thomas Nelson).

I think I get more questions about Jesus’ teaching in Luke 14 than probably any other text in the Bible:

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple.  (vv. 25-26)

What? Hate your mother and father?  Hate your wife? Your children? What was Jesus talking about?

Well clearly he’s not calling us to actually hate our families.  Just a few chapters before this text, when he was asked what the most important law was, he’s quoted as saying, “‘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.'” (Lk. 10:27)

Later he told his disciples, “This is my command: Love each other.” (Jn 15:17)

So what’s going on here?

First, you need to know that Jesus was using hyperbole. He was using exaggeration to make or reinforce a point — something we do all the time.

The other day my son wanted to go to a basketball game, and I told him we couldn’t go, he said, “But Dad, everybody is going to be there.” Did he literally mean the world’s population of 6.9 billion people would be at that game? No he was exaggerating to make his point and I understood exactly what he meant.

I believe Jesus was doing the same thing when he told his followers to hate their families. He was using hyperbole to say, “All other relationships and activities should pale in comparison to following me.”

In other words, “Don’t take what is good and make it ultimate.”

And isn’t that what often happens with religion?  We take traditions and preferences, which are good and lovely things, and we make them ultimate things. We give them idol status.

After an extended amount of time reflecting on this passage, I once wrote this in my journal: “Pete, your greatest temptation in life will be to chase after not what is ridiculously evil, but what is deceptively good.

While I may not know you personally, I believe this is probably your greatest temptation as well.

You see, Jesus never said you can’t have religious preferences.

There’s nothing wrong with preferring traditional music over contemporary music (or vice versa).

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to go to church in a gym or even under a bridge instead of in a building with a steeple.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take Communion weekly instead of quarterly.

There’s nothing wrong with having a heart for social justice, Scripture memory, or being part of a comunity group.

Jesus just said, don’t allow those preferences and traditions to become rules that you force other people to obey if they want to follow him. Don’t take good tings and make them ultimate things.

Another way to say this is: Be careful not to worship a good thing as a god thing, for that is an idolatry thing that will become a destructive thing.

Why? Simply because no religious tradition or preference can purify the sinner’s heart or give eternal life. No law or rule can ever lead to an explosion of love and joy in the human heart. What the Law could not do, God did through his own Son, Jesus. But religion tends to take the focus off what Christ did and put it on our own efforts instead. It tends to make us focus on what’s in the blank of

Jesus + ______

rather than on the cross.

~Pete Wilson; Empty Promises pp. 118-120

Pete Wilson is the author of  Plan B (Thomas Nelson) and pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN.  He blogs regularly at Without Wax and is on my top five list of people I’d like to be seated next to on an airplane.

November 23, 2011

Do The Math: 70 X 7

You’ll find links to Russell D. Moore’s blog Moore To The Point in various spots at Thinking Out Loud, but this is the first time he’s been featured here.  This appeared at his blog under the title, What Forgiveness Is And Isn’t.

The most difficult math problem in the universe, it turns out, is 70 x 7. Perhaps the hardest thing to do in the Christian life is to forgive someone who has hurt you, often badly. But Jesus says the alternative to forgiving one’s enemies is hell.

One of the reasons this is hard for us is because we too often assume forgiving a trespasser means allowing an injustice to stand. This attitude betrays a defective eschatology. At our Lord’s arrest (Matt. 26:47-54), Jesus told Peter to put his sword back into his sheath not because Jesus didn’t believe in punishing evildoers (think Armageddon). Jesus told Peter he could have an armada of angelic warriors at his side (and one day he will). But judgment was not yet, and Peter wasn’t judge.

That’s the point.

When we forgive, we are confessing that vengeance is God’s (Rom. 12:19). We don’t need to exact justice from a fellow believer because justice has already fallen at the cross. We don’t need to exact vengeance from an unbeliever because we know the sin against us will be judged in hell or, more hopefully, when the offender unites himself to the One who is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2).

A prisoner of war who forgives his captor or a terminated pastor who forgives a predatory congregation, these people are not overlooking sin. Nor are they saying that what happened is “okay” or that the relationships involved are back to “normal” (whatever that is). Instead they are confessing that judgment is coming and they can trust the One who will be seated on that throne.

You don’t have to store up bitterness, and you don’t have to find ways of retaliation for what’s been done to you. You can trust a God who is just. If you won’t forgive, if you refuse to rest in God’s judgment without seeking to retaliate, it doesn’t matter what your evangelistic tracts and prophecy charts say. When it comes to the gospel and the to the end times, you’re just another liberal.

~Russell D. Moore

March 5, 2011

Heart Broken? Try Duct Tape

If this blog serves no other purpose today, I hope it introduces new readers to DailyEncouragment.net; a source from which I’ve probably quoted material here than any other.  This one appeared under the title Duct Tape for the Soul.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Many local businesses in our area are owned by Christians and we are accustomed to seeing signs and Scripture verses on businesses proclaiming an aspect of faith. Each Christmas and Easter our local community Merchandiser papers often have the entire front pages devoted to the seasonal spiritually related theme.

I enjoy reading ad fliers from hardware stores and earlier this month I received a sales flyer from the Paul B. Zimmerman Hardware store near Ephrata Pennsylvania. Among the ads displaying drain cleaner, hinges, cable ties and other items for sale is a display box that includes a Scripture verse under the heading “Duct Tape For The Soul.”

As a home workshop enthusiast I find two items indispensable to a complete workshop:  Duct tape and WD-40.  (I suppose I should add bungee cords, as well.)  Many years ago we were eating in a diner near Sand Springs, Oklahoma and I saw a big burly construction worker type man with this slogan emblazoned on his sweatshirt, “WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH THE TOUGH USE DUCT TAPE.”

I learned early on in life the many virtues of duct tape from my dad.  It’s amazing how much can be fixed with it. I’ve even seen well-worn Bibles covers that Christians refuse to part with bound together with duct tape!

I think of duct tape when I consider our daily verse.  The Hebrew word for “bind” (chabash) has the sense “to bind firmly.”  I’m glad God’s binding is not a flimsy variety.  This same word is used by Isaiah in describing the mission of the coming Messiah when he states, “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1).

What a joy to personally experience this healthful binding in my own life and as a minister of the Gospel to help others experience it as well. Yesterday I spoke to a group at a nursing home service and used this verse as my main text. I consider the accumulative aspect of brokenheartedness experienced in that senior group throughout their lifetime. Of course many had lost a spouse in addition to their parents, siblings, and in some cases their own children.

There are inevitable times of brokenheartedness experienced through life, and more so as the aging progresses.

Today are you brokenhearted?  Do you have some spiritual wounds?  I’ve got good news for you!  God has not changed.  He still cares.  And He still acts. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

~Stephen & Brooksyne Weber