Life and death can be confusing, and we generally fear the death part of the equation. We all want life to mean something. For Christians, that meaning comes through what we do with the one life we are now living. By focusing ourselves on being like Jesus in the here and now, we make the world around us better. By God’s grace and if we are faithful, we have an eternity with Jesus later. For those who believe in reincarnation, it is very different. They see this life as one stop in a massive cycle of lives that eventually will produce a purification and unification in a god-like state. So, if Christianity is all about attaining perfection and reincarnation is essentially about the same thing, are they compatible?
Are ghosts real? Is reincarnation a legitimate process in the patterns of life? For billions of people in our world today, the answers to one or both of these questions is a resounding yes. It all has to do with the mystery of what happens after we die. Life is precious, and because we cannot physically see what happens after death, humanity longs for an answer to our mortality. For all the ages that humanity has existed, we have found explanations to bridge the gap between what we know and what science cannot confirm. For many, there is what they consider substantial evidence in defense of these beliefs. Is there a way to know the truth about these things? As Christians, the best we can do is use the Bible as our basis. To the best of our ability, we will address what is brought forth as evidence with our clearest thinking.
When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, He set a standard that would influence the world for ages to come. Those ten statements of direction summed up all of what humanity would need to live godly and productive lives. The first two of those Commandments were to have no other gods before God himself and to not create and worship idols. While we know what these things meant for ancient Israel, what do they mean for us? Are we, as Christians, bound by those Commandments? If so, how? What does having other gods look like in the 21st century? And what about idols? Back in those days, people chiseled them out of wood or stone. We don’t do that anymore, so how would making and worshipping idols fit into or day
Conflict is everywhere! This is not necessarily a bad thing, as proper conflict management at every phase of our lives provides some of life’s most fertile growth experiences. The problem is, we are NOT taught how to manage our conflicts. In the first of our 2-part series, we listed and discussed the "Five Degenerating Stages of Conflict.” We saw plain evidence that we generally approach our conflicts with personal opinions, preferences, passion and a desire to win. What tends to get overlooked are the solid, emotionless principles of truth and righteousness. If you look at the social and political conflicts in our world, you will see the sad and chaotic results of such an approach. So, how do we turn the tables? As Christians, how do we rise above the fray and manage the conflicts before us with godliness and grace while firmly standing for what is right? The answers are straightforward, sound and scriptural!
Wearing a mask when you go out. Cleaning and sanitizing anything and everything all the time. Social distancing. Avoiding crowded places. Working from home or not being able to work at all. Seeing friends and family on Zoom instead of in person. It is enough to make the strongest among us to feel battle worn. We are edgier, suffer higher levels of anxiety and are lonely. All of this because of COVID-19, a microscopic virus. How small is this virus? For a very unscientific illustration, imagine flatly stacking up eight sticky notes equals about 1 millimeter in height. A micron is one one-thousandth of that height. It would take about eight COVID virus particles to equal one micron! That means you could stack up 8,000 COVID particles, and they would be equal to the eight sticky notes that are a millimeter thick. How can something so minute turn our lives upside down? As Christians, how do we cope?
Conflict is everywhere. Small children need to be guided through conflict when they learn about sharing and scream, “...But that’s MINE!” Adolescents could use some serious education through conflict when they begin to believe their parents are ignorant and rebelliously demand their way. Adults (especially spouses) need practical coaching when they clash with one another’s viewpoints on issues of importance. When it comes to social issues and politics, most of us - whether we know it or not - are desperate for direction in our deep conflicts, for without it we will destroy one another. The point is obvious. Conflicts abound at every stage of life and in almost every circumstance in life. What can we do? How do we not just cope but overcome all of this conflict? Fortunately, the Bible is full of conflicts and therefore full of solutions!
Jesus did a lot of teaching in parables. He chose this method primarily for the purpose of hiding his real meaning from the public in fulfillment of a prophecy in Isaiah. Occasionally, he spoke a parable meant for his disciples. The story of the Wise and Foolish Virgins is such a case. We know the story is about some of the virgins being prepared and the other virgins who were not, so is that the point? Turns out this just scratches the surface! This parable was a story to prepare them for the coming centuries. More than that, it was a story that Jesus used to outline what those who would be faithful to him would be like. This parable not only describes the character of the faithful, it is a major prophecy that has reached its fulfillment in our day!
Slavery. It is a function of a sin-ridden imperfect human race. When we hear of people being slaves the reality of what that means has a dramatic range. There was the inhuman harshness of Egyptian domination over Israel and the enslavement of Africans a few hundred years ago. Then there were the Roman and Greek versions of slavery. There was the indentured servitude of several cultures. In all cases, it is easy for us who live in the 21st century to look back and wonder why. We think we know better. Here’s the problem – at this very moment, cruel and heartless slavery still exists. It includes the abuse of minors, sex trafficking and other forms of inhuman behavior. We know that God has allowed slavery to occur among his chosen people. What kind of slavery was it, and why did He allow it?
Every Christian group proclaims what they believe to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as we all claim to follow his leading and his life. The problem arises when we compare our doctrine, principles and life objectives with one another. Simply stated, it all just does not line up. There are SO many variations of Christianity, it is safe to say that we can find disagreement on just about any aspect of what Christianity is. The age-old question is, who's right? How do I know that the view of Christianity I adhere to is sound? How do I know that what I stand for is truly a God-honoring belief system? The only way we can think to answer this question is to look at Christianity solely based on Scripture. Let’s put aside tradition and try to eliminate our bias and see how God’s word describes the Gospel of Jesus!
How is Christianity supposed to be organized? If you look at the countless denominations we have today, you will see a wide variety of interpretations regarding leadership. With some, it all boils down to one individual leader. With others, it is a committee of several. In many cases, those in authority have the responsibility of delegating who is to oversee each of the local congregations. With so much variety, have you ever wondered if there is actually a right way to do all of this? If we’re able to go to church and feel blessed, does it even matter? What did the early church do? How did they decide which church leaders would lead where? Did the apostles give us a God-sanctioned system to perpetuate leadership for the flock all down through the age until now