Remember Forrest Gump? It was just a real joy to watch and the time just flew, watching a bumbling anti-hero win the day. Over the years, I have quoted the Forrest Gump rule many, many times. “**it happens!” Yes, bad things do happen. However, it is a negative approach to life. Watching too much news gives us a steady diet of negativity. Interviews of different business, scientific, social, educational and political "leaders" who just keep touting more know-it-all criticism of things. It’s just hype. Truth is the world is run by people who don't have a clue. Let’s focus more on the positive side of life, the good that is all around us. Let’s let go and let God take care of things. Let’s remember the Counter-Forrest-Gump rule: GOOD HAPPENS! (Philippians 4:8) May good happen to you today!
How did the Christian Church get where we are today? Churches older than Rome gradually formed the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Roman church became the only cohesive force in troubled Europe. Western Christianity became corrupt. Efforts to reform the western church were often brutally suppressed, until Luther, who found support among northern German states. Protestant Reformation gave incentive for Catholic Reformation, but it was too little, too late. While Protestants quickly formed their own traditions, Rome turned theories about Mary into "infallible" dogmas, greatly offending both Eastern and Protestant Christians. However, Christians are unified in the important areas: All believe that salvation is only available in Jesus Christ, that we must repent of our sins, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit and that the most important teachings of the entirety of Christian history are those of its founder Jesus Christ.
Who is the Holy Spirit? How do we receive the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to be filled or baptized with the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit do today? These are questions in pneumatology. The Greek word pneuma (πνευμα) means wind or breath — a metaphor for the spirit. Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father alone or both from the Father and the Son? That argument caused the Great Schism between eastern and western Christians. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and is involved in the calling, regeneration, indwelling, baptizing, sanctifying, teaching, empowering, guiding, gifting, sealing and filling of believers. If anyone is interested in studying this topic further, ask your nearest Christian book retailer to recommend a good one volume book on theology and look up the section on pneumatology.
How great is God? In Isaiah 55:8-9 we read that his ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Theologians call this God's transcendence. He is far higher than his creation and greater than it in every way. From the beginning, God has been called the "most high" (Genesis 14:18-22; Numbers 24:16; Mark 5:7; Acts 7:48). The songwriter asks the rhetorical question "Who is like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high" (Psalm 113:5). Karl Barth described transcendence as God being unable to be known except by revelation. Søren Kirkegaard explained that God is qualitatively distinct, beyond dimension. Historically, we have viewed God as above time. When things happen and we don't understand why, people often reply that God only knows, and they are right.
Why not tell our kids about the REAL Santa this year? Saint Nicholas was Bishop of Myra in ancient Turkey. He was well known for his generous giving of gifts. One famous story speaks of his giving dowries to a poor man, so that his daughters could get married rather than turn to prostitution in order to survive. Often he would travel to distant villages on a donkey to give gifts. He did not have elves, but he did apparently save an Ethiopian boy name Piter from slavery, who was so grateful that he hung around as Nicholas' assistant. Rather than condone paganism, Nicholas is said to have destroyed several pagan temples. The REAL story of Santa is about giving. Maybe we could teach our children what Acts 20:35 says, that it is more blessed to give than receive.
Labels: Acts 20
How near is God? In Jeremiah 23:24 we that read that God fills heaven and earth. Theologians call this God's immanence. Acts 17:27-28 declares that God is not far from every one of us. God is not absent, at the other end of the universe. He is immanent, quite near to us. So next time that we are feeling like God has gone way off, and is very far from us, let's remember these words from Scripture, that he is in reality very near to us at every moment. That's why Christians can refer to God as "my God" and "Abba, Father" - a first century saying of great nearness and affection for God. God was with us from conception and remains with us always, causing every beat of our hearts, every breath we take.
Xmas is pagan? So what! God converted pagan people. Why not pagan days! It’s not the right date? Who cares! We celebrate a birth not a date. Xmas is too commercial? So what! Even Shinto Japan hears the gospel in Xmas carols in every store. X-ing Christ out by writing Xmas instead of Christmas? X is the Greek letter for Ch, an abbreviation for Christ. Jeremiah 10 forbids Xmas trees? Wrong! It condemns idols made from wood. Santa Claus? The REAL Santa Claus was from ancient Myra. His life of generous giving was exemplary. Critics import Pharisaism into Xmas. Touch not taste not! That’s not Christianity. We have the freedom to create days to celebrate Christ! So, leave us be, and go have your little anti-Xmas rant. As for us, we will celebrate the Incarnation of our Savior. Merry Xmas!
Labels: Jeremiah 10
Believe it or not, the word catholic is not found in the Bible. Where did it come from and why do people use it? It's from a Greek word katholikos (καθολικός) meaning "universal." It was coined by Ignatius to refer to Christianity's universal inclusivism, as opposed to Judaism's national exclusivism. Many Protestants understand this use of the term and gladly refer to themselves as catholic (small c). And so the credal phrase referring to "one holy, catholic and apostolic church" is used by many Protestants, although some substitute the word "universal" for catholic, just so there is no confusion. Orthodox and Anglican churches also consider themselves to be Catholic (big C). The strange paradox is that the western Roman church which formally calls itself Catholic (big C), now sees itself as the Jews did, in an exclusive fashion.
What is Armageddon? It is actually means Mount Megiddo, a place in modern day Israel. It is often portrayed as the spot where a final battle takes place between God and evil forces (Revelation 16:16). Some Christians interpret this as a literal battle in a literal place at the end of the age. However, Revelation is a book written in the apocalyptic genre, a largely symbolic writing style. It is an ancient style that most closely resembles political satire today. Ancient writers who might have been burned at the stake for criticising their leaders, wrote in symbolic language to disguise their political jibes. Today, we might picture a political party by a donkey or an elephant for instance. Revelation pictures religious and political systems as various beasts. If it is symbolic, Armageddon pictures God's eventual triumph over evil.
Labels: Revelation 16
When Ray Kroc began McDonald's, in one sense it really was nothing new. We have been doing McChurch for almost two thousand years. It didn't take too long for Christianity to become formulaic, assembly line like with real-estate based franchise arrangements. McDonald's is praised for its cleanliness and efficiency or their business model, but rarely for the quality of its food. What about the spiritual food that our churches feed? Did Jesus teach assembly line Christianity — stand up, sit down, kneel or fall over backwards, raise your hands, bow your heads, sing to the music, you pay we pray, and fast-food Happy-Meal sermons with all the nutrition of a cardboard box. Are we uninterested in what Jesus taught? We seem to prefer spiritual junk food (2 Timothy 4:3). Whatever happened to the Christianity of Christ?
Labels: 2 Timothy 04
A man once started a bakery. He had not heard about a recession and his business thrived. One day, somebody told him that things were bad. He began to fret and became overly cautious. His business went downhill. The daily news spewed forth a constant diet of negativity. He lost everything. Sometimes we need good news to bring a little healing (Proverbs 12:18). This man decided to eliminate negativity from his life. He ignored the news, restarted his business and it became one of the most successful in the area, attracting tourists and bringing employment to outback Australia. Paul also suggested that we accentuate the positive (Philippians 4:8). There is good news out there! It can actually do wonders for our health...and the best news of all is that God wants us to live with him forever!
Matthew 10:1-4 shows some brothers among the disciples of Jesus. Was this nepotism? There are two extremes to nepotism — politicians who award government contracts to family members and businesses that break families apart, forbidding them from working together. Yet, family businesses can be very healthy. What if the most qualified person for the job actually IS a family member? Should we discriminate because some have abused the privilege, because of favoritism? Jesus' first disciples, those who became the apostles, the founding fathers of the early church, included a couple of brothers, Peter and Andrew. Throughout the Bible, we see many families who were used by God for great purposes. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are only one example. Family businesses, family ministries and family members hiring family members can be a good thing. More than ever, family is very important.
Labels: Matthew 10
The Bible does not use the word inerrant. Does that make it errant? John 17:17 describes God’s word as truth, a different word to inerrant. So why do some use the word inerrant? In today’s culture, people ask, "What is truth?" Many believe that there is no absolute truth, a truth that can never change. So, the word "inerrant" can be helpful to explain truth today. Some define inerrant narrowly and others more broadly. Does the Bible contain no error, factual, historic or doctrinal. There are translation errors and nobody has the original manuscripts, the autographs. The earliest surviving books of the Bible are copies of copies. Most Christians call the Bible God’s Word because we believe that God moved the redactors, authors, editors, copiers, printers and translators. It is truth in the sense that the Bible is God-inspired.
Labels: John 17
Matthew 9:37-39 says that the laborers in the harvest are few. That sounds so much like the 80-20 rule, where 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. Certainly church work never seems to end. There is always the need for someone else to help. Often the most dedicated people, who do the 80%, get burned out. Some leave their church because they are just tired. What a loss! If you are one of the 20% who is burning out from overwork, would you perhaps like to take a moment to consider just doing one less task? Your absence due to exhaustion would be a great loss for us all. One of the most valuable words in church life is no. Just say no to over-involvement so we can enjoy your company a long, long time.
When will the astronomer discover the heavens, the sun, moon and stars singing praise to God? When will the meteorologist see the lightning, hail, snow, clouds and wind dancing in acknowledgement of God? When will the geologist see the mountains and hills announcing God’s praise? When will the arborist see the tributes from fruit trees and cedars declaring God’s reverence? When will the zoologist hear the wild elephant’s hymn of praise to God and the veterinarian hear the domestic cow’s homage to her maker? When will the ornithologist hear the bird’s song of praise to God? Could there be a message that we are missing? Could it be that we are so prejudiced against the idea of God, that we are rendered incapable of discovering the deeper truths? Psalm 148 challenges us to listen to the praise that is everywhere.
Psalm 148 suggests that there is praise to God to be shouted by all creation for those who will hear. Whales and dolphins makes sonar songs and dance in the depths praising God. Flames in a winter fireplace dance in praise to God. Hail pounds out a thunderous message and snowflakes whisper in tranquil celebration. Clouds fill the sky with praise and the wind howls a word of adoration. The weather offers an ever changing landscape of accolades. Mountains and hills make us climb to hear their praise and get a better view of what God has made. Trees spring forth in colorful and fruitful praise. Elephants trumpet, dogs bark and cows bellow praise. Kookaburras laugh in derision at those who mock the idea of a Creator. The message is loud and clear and ubiquitous. Will we join the dance?
Psalm 148 suggests that all creation praises God. Some people may object. Surely birds, for instance, are not singing but shouting territorial warnings at each other. That is a rather superficial explanation, only looking at the immediate and not at the profound communication going on. There is often a meaning behind the message that shallow thinkers miss, but deep thinkers have understood throughout the ages. In Romans 1:18-25 the author argues that all creation points to an obvious conclusion which has been ignored by fools who claim to be wise. Why would intelligent people disregard the obvious? The writer of Romans suggests that among other reasons, there may be sinful motives and a preference for lies that excuse wrong desires and sexual impurity. To the rest, all of creation sings a song with a deeper meaning — praise to God.
Psalm 148 exhorts the sun, moon and stars to praise God. They already do simply by their witness to his greatness. How many stars are there? Our Milky Way galaxy probably contains 100 billion stars. Add that to the possibility that there are 100 billion galaxies in the known universe. So 100 billion times 100 billion is a 1 followed by 22 zeros, or ten billion trillion stars. The previous Psalm makes an even bigger claim, that God not only knows the number of the stars he created, but also their names (Psalm 147). God who created so many suns, is praised by their very existence. It is an incomprehensible majesty to puny humans. Some argue about origins without divinity, yet the evidence is obvious to all but the willfully ignorant. Praise him sun, moon and all you shining stars!
In Psalm 148 is an exhortation to all angels to praise God. How many is that? the largest number associated with angels is given in Revelation 5:11 where we are told that a myriad times a myriad surrounds God’s throne in heaven. A myriad is literally 10,000 and a myriad times a myriad is literally 100 million. Is a number in a book written in a symbolic genre meant to be taken literally? Probably not! Some have speculated that there may be as many angels as humans who have ever lived. Others have thought that if stars picture angels, then perhaps the number of stars visible to the naked eye correspond to the number of angels. In ancient unpolluted skies that may have been as many as 45,000 stars. However many there are, they all praise God.
Psalm 148 speaks poetically of inanimate objects praising God. The very first line says to praise God from the heavens. How high are the heavens? The word used means the things above us, what we would call the sky today. So how high is the sky? If we are asking how thick the atmosphere is, it is about 300 miles thick. If we are asking how far in the known universe we can see with the naked eye, that is perhaps the Andromeda galaxy about 2.5 million light years away. We can only see it in the countryside away from city lights. With the Hubble telescope, the farthest we can see is about 13 billion light years away. Nobody knows what is beyond that and the best educated astrophysicists can only speculate. It all continually shouts praises to God.
When the angel in Luke 2:1-20 announced the good news of Jesus’ birth, he was not using a new term. It was common at the time to announce Caesar’s various military victories as good news. His announcement also said that a Savior was born, the Messiah, the Lord. The announcement was in effect saying that this child is savior and Lord and Caesar is not. It would be the equivalent sense of saying today that Jesus is Lord and national leaders are not. Jesus will save us and puffed up, pompous science will not. Jesus is Messiah and the high priests of medicine are not. The joy of our Savior’s birth has nothing to do with temporary good news of worldly gifts and human abilities, but the permanent good news of peace on earth to all in him alone.
The Caesars of this world’s politics and industry often hope to be Saviors. They make enthusiastic promises, but in the end they fail to deliver salvation to a suffering humanity. Interestingly, the true Savior’s birth is introduced in Luke 2:1-20 with a name, Caesar Augustus, known in his day by the title “Savior of the world.” What a contrast! Many so-called saviors of the day claimed to have been given birth by the gods, but they only saved themselves. Next, we are introduced to Quirinius, whose census just served to bully people into submission. A very pregnant Mary was given no mercy, but forced into traveling on a long journey. He too was not a savior, but born into privilege and abusive power. The true Savior would come from what we might call today Podunksville, a place of humility.
One key to studying the Holy Scriptures is to learn Bible definitions of words rather than assume that a modern meaning is sufficient. For instance, today some do not like to call Christianity a religion, meaning empty man-made traditions. Sadly, that redefines the word and also contradicts one of the writers of the Bible itself. This unfortunate idea tends to prejudice us against James using that same word. In James 1:27 he speaks of pure and undefiled religion before God. To prejudice ourselves against the word religion tends to make James look like an idiot for using the word to describe Christianity. So, what then does James describe as this pure religion? Caring for orphans and widows and keeping ourselves unpolluted by the world. We can’t have Christianity without the religion. Real Christianity includes the essentials of pure religion.
Labels: James 01
In Matthew 9:32-36 Jesus had compassion on crowds of people because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. But the Pharisees and Sadducees were their spiritual leaders. However, they were not perfect shepherds. They did not recognize their own Messiah, but persecuted him to protect their own religious turf. It is the religion of men that put Jesus on the cross. Isn't it about time that we looked to Jesus to teach us about his religion? Real religious leadership is not about authoritarianism, turf wars, esoteric doctrines or control. It's about being crucified with Christ. Where are the Christian church leaders willing to die to their power structures so that their churches can live? Where are the church leaders who are willing to die to self, so that the shepherdless sheep can be fed?
A would-be disciple of Jesus asked to go and bury his father before following him (Matthew 8:18-22). The Bible says to honor our parents. So, Jesus' response was shocking. He told the man to let the dead bury their dead. Jesus was not teaching to dishonor our parents, but rather that following him is a greater obligation. Anything that gets in the way of unqualified commitment to Jesus, must be set aside.* Family is one of life's highest priorities. However, family cannot be allowed to take a higher priority over our commitment to Jesus (Matthew 10:37-39; Luke 14:25-26). This requires wisdom and the application may not always be easy. What's in it for you? Are you willing to place Jesus as first priority in your life, even above honor to parents and family responsibility?
* Michael J. Wilkins, "The NIV Application Commentary - Matthew," Zondervan (2004): 350.
How can we read the Bible and not get weird ideas? First, read what the text actually says and not what it does NOT say. We also need to exegete (extract from the text) not eisegete (insert what we want the text to say). That involves God, the author, the text, the ancient audience, the cultural context and finally the modern audience - in a word, research. Rather than look for secret meanings most often the plain sense makes common sense. Don't string verses together out of context. Be careful of application which can become man-made rules or worse, heresies. Finally, learn from a Bible scholar who can rightly divide the word of truth. Bible teachers who are willing to learn from what the Holy Spirit has taught others down through the ages are the most balanced and true.
Labels: Proverbs 11
What are the advantages and disadvantages of various Bible translations? The most accurate is a Greek or Hebrew interlinear Bible for those who know the original languages. The next best thing is a word-for-word translation such as the New American Standard Bible or the King James Version. At the other end of the spectrum are paraphrase Bibles which use contemporary street language. A popular paraphrase is the Message. In the middle are balanced or dynamic equivalent translations such as the New International Version and the New Living Translation. For accuracy and doctrine, an interlinear Bible or a word for word translation is best. For inspiration and personal encouragement, a paraphrase is excellent. For the best of both, a dynamic equivalent is good. The essentials of the faith are in every translation. Pick any translation that you like and begin reading.
Jesus quietly healed several blind men. He did not ask them how much faith they had to be healed, merely if they had faith (Matthew 9:27-31). They answered in the affirmative and so Jesus healed them privately and without fanfare. Faith is central to the Christianity of Christ. Power is often central to the religion of men. So, Jesus told them sternly not to tell anyone about their healing. New believers are often naïve to the realities of religion in the hands of men. The healed men forgot Jesus' request for privacy, so the news spread rapidly and persecution from religious leaders was not far behind. When faith in Christ threatens the religion of men, bullying and the abuse of power are often the result. Even Jesus thought that it was sometimes best to keep his faith to himself.
The word for church is usually translated from the Greek word εκκλησíα (ekklesia), those called out to an assembly. Sometimes the faithful are unable to assemble with others. The Bible describes four kinds of situations wherein believers find themselves. Since the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized, there have been many lone Christians. Some are in jail or live in fear of persecution. Abraham was the spiritual leader of his family. They did not attend a larger church, yet he is described as the father of the faithful. Early churches were usually persecuted house churches. A fourth kind of church is large meeting like on Pentecost in Acts. Which is the best form of doing church? The Bible reveals many forms of church which are all "right" with God. It depends. Each form has something valuable to contribute to the Christian experience.
Labels: Acts 02
Saved? From what? Saved is used in several ways in the Bible. A woman who touched Jesus' cloak was saved or healed. Jesus told her that her faith had healed her. The Greek word often used for healing has a double meaning, physical healing and eternal salvation. In Matthew 9:18-26 Jesus laid hands on a young girl who was by all accounts dead, and she was saved. Jesus told the doubting crowds that she was just asleep. They laughed because they knew she was dead. However, Jesus brought her back to life. This is where Christians get the euphemism for death as like a sleep. By calling death a sleep, we express our faith in the resurrection, and that death is not the final word.* Jesus ultimately saves us from death so we can spend eternity with him.
* Hagner, D. A. (2002). Vol. 33A: Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 1-13. Word Biblical Commentary (251). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
In Matthew 9:9-17 we read how Jesus broke several religious traditions. He chose a seemingly inappropriate individual, Matthew the collaborator, to become one of his leading disciples. Jesus also ate with immoral and crooked people. Moreover, Jesus did not demand that his disciples practice the religious discipline of fasting while he was still on earth. Why did Jesus disregard such standards of conduct? The Bible reveals two kinds of traditions, good and bad, the good tradition of the elders and bad traditions which only serve to imprison us and detract from the message of Christ. Traditions which enhance the Gospel can be good. However, Jesus came to do away with narrow formal religion and careful ritual* which often does more harm than good. Christianity is about faith not ceremony, hope not rules of men, and love not religious exclusivism.
* Wenham, Motyer, Carson and France (1997). New Bible Commentary (916). IVP.
When healing a man, Jesus pronounced his sins forgiven (Matthew 9:1-8) shocking the religious establishment. They claimed that only God has the power to forgive sins, precisely Jesus’ point. He was God in the flesh. All sickness is caused by sin. It may not be directly caused by any sin of the sick person, but is certainly the result of the sins of humanity in general accumulating since the beginning. Jesus' primary mission was overcoming sin through the cross.* Healing is only a temporary, secondary solution pointing to the eternal solution of the cross. The most important work of Jesus in the world and our lives is the conquest of sin and all the consequences of evil. God does have a long-term plan and the authority to solve all humanity's problems and it centers on the cross.
* Hagner, D. A. (2002). Vol. 33A: Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 1-13. Word Biblical Commentary (232). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
Many people today do not accept the existence of a devil or demons. Yet, humanity acknowledges the shocking reality of evil every day in the news. The Bible reveals unseen spiritual forces so foul and sinister that the whole world is deluded and troubled by them. Christians are called to confront the evil around them with good. Sometimes evil is so confronting that we are forced to face it. How do we handle ourselves when good confronts evil? Jesus' confronted two violently insane people who inhabited a graveyard southeast of Lake Galilee (Matthew 8:28-34). The exchange revealed that Jesus is superior to evil. In fact, Jesus has the power and authority from heaven to conquer all evil. He will some day triumph over every evil in the world. Will we let him defeat the evil in our lives now?
Lake Galilee has been well-known for its sudden violent storms anciently as well as in modern times. Crossing in an open boat with some of his first disciples, Jesus was sound asleep. Meanwhile, huge waves suddenly threatened to drown them all (Matthew 8:23-27). Some would-be disciples had decided not to follow Jesus because his was an itinerant ministry and he could not promise them a comfortable, established vocation. Those disciples that did follow him immediately ran into a life threatening situation. When they awoke Jesus, he instantly calmed the storm by a divine miracle. Discipleship sometimes leads us into stormy situations. At such times it may be important to remember Jesus' words to his first disciples. Why are we so afraid? Do we have so little faith? Let's remind ourselves that even the winds and waves obey him.
Jesus replied to a would-be disciple that foxes and birds have established places, but the Son of Man has nowhere (Matthew 8:19-21). What does that say to our established churches today with beautiful buildings, music and wealthy finery? Jesus indicated that his ministry would not yield an institution with cozy benefits.* This is a warning for us today. There is a grave danger in being an established church. We can become comfortable, materialistic, afraid to let the truth of the Gospel upset the apple cart. We may be men-pleasers, not wanting to offend major financial supporters, unwilling to preach against sin, afraid to speak the truth plainly. Preachers are tempted to speak "smooth things" and prophesy deceits (Isaiah 30:10). Are we willing to follow Christ wherever he leads, even if it means that you will be uncomfortable?
* Jack Dean Kingsbury, "On Following Jesus: The 'Eager' Scribe and the 'Reluctant' Disciple (Matthew 8:18-22)," NTS 34 (1988): 47-52
People often describe a particular sermon or preacher as "really anointed." What do they mean? They may mean stirring or exciting, but that is not what the Bible means by anointed. Some do genuinely give the Holy Spirit credit for the preaching, but then when asked how they know this, the answer is often similar: enthusiasm and excitement. How does the Bible describe real anointed preaching? In Isaiah 61:1-3 we find words like good news, binding up broken hearts, proclaiming liberty, freeing prisoners, proclaim God's favor, his vengeance and to comfort those who mourn. Now that could be done in a manner that is calm and quiet or loud and enthusiastic. The volume or level of excitement has nothing to do with being an anointed preacher. The content has everything to do with it. That’s the teaching of Scripture.
Labels: Isaiah 61
Peter left fishing to follow Jesus, but Matthew 8:14-15 shows that he did not give up everything. He owned his own house, with a wife and family. Celibacy is an honorable choice, but it is not something Jesus demanded. Voluntary poverty is also an honorable choice, but is not something Jesus demanded. Peter had a mother-in-law. He was married and he had a house. Peter took his wife along with him (1 Corinthians 9:5). It is not necessary to give up all earthly things for the kingdom of heaven. Paul did encourage celibacy under certain circumstances. It is an honorable alternative. However, an attitude of unconcern about material things is what's really important, placing them low on our list of priorities. Living an ascetic or celibate life was never a biblical requirement, not even for an apostle.
I don't give a hoot if you speak in every language of men and angels. If you don't love anyone else but yourself, it's comes across as just a useless, loud, attention-getting noise.
I don't give a hoot about your prophecies and your shoving of your pop theology down my throat. I don't give a hoot that you seem to believe that you are so superior to the rest of us in faith. In fact I wouldn't give a hoot if your faith could move Mount Everest. If you don't love anyone but yourself, what the heck use is it?
I don't give a hoot about all your great charity efforts, even if you think you are Mother Theresa, and I don't care about the great self-sacrificing you brag about. If you don't love me, who cares!
If you really love me, you will put up with me for a long time, you won't envy me and put me down when I do something good, you won't brag about yourself, or be rude to me, put yourself first, be irritated by me, nor think evil of me. You won't laugh and revel in filth, but in the truth.
You will bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.
Love never fails, but your prophecies, preaching, predictions will all fail. Tongues? They'll all end. Know-it-alls will eventually have nothing to brag about. We don't know very much at all, whether it's doctrine or the future. Our weak works will all end when Jesus' perfect work is fully realized.
When we were children we thought we were the ants pants too, but we grew out of that. Now that we are adults we should realize how little we really do know about anything. Unlike now, one day we really will know it all. In the meantime, the only really important things are faith, hope and love. The most important of all is love.
Labels: 1 Corinthians 13
Matthew 8:5-13 challenges us. Why is there an attitude of exclusivity in some churches? Does belonging to an exclusive group guarantee you God's blessings more than others? Is salvation only available in one particular church? People used to believe it was only available in the ancient nation of Israel, also called the church in the wilderness. Jesus' healing of a Roman soldier's servant showed several things. Healing does not need a person's touch to be accomplished, because Jesus just said a word and it was done. Also, the door to the kingdom of heaven is open to those who believe, whether or not they belong to a particular faction. Exclusive thinking can be spiritually dangerous, because it produces a certain kind of laziness, that relies more on membership of a particular group than faith in Christ.
In Matthew 8:1-4 Jesus touched a diseased man and healed him when others would not have touched him at all. Jesus told him not to tell anyone. This was no healing show staged for attention. It was a normal part of New Testament church life. However, taboos of the law such as not touching a sick person, interpreted in the letter, could provide an excuse to avoid visiting and serving the sick. Jesus was the God of the Old Testament. That's why he is called Lord. He authored the law, and did not interpret it in the letter, but in the spirit. Rather than merely pronounce healing, he touched the leper first and then healed the man. For us, it can also be an act of faith to visit and serve the sick and pray for their healing.
Like almost everything in this world, Christmas too can be a mixture of good and bad. If we avoid any mention of Jesus or good things, but only spend our time on fables and materialism and debauchery and credit card debt, then perhaps we could have a completely godless Christmas. However, if we focus on Jesus’ birth, good will, and that even Saint Nicholas was once a Christian who gave gifts to the poor, and that giving to the least is the same as giving to Jesus, then perhaps they could even have a very Christian Christmas. There is no biblical mandate to celebrate Christmas. It entered the Church 300 years after Jesus. Like many pagan peoples, it too was converted to Christianity. Let us too convert our Christmas to a celebration of Jesus and not act like the pagans.