It is a sad thing to say, but slander and gossip are easy. They are. Whether by spoken word or social media interaction, we are set up to say things, write things and imply things about others without recourse. For some reason we think it is okay to slam those we don’t like with twisted facts and partial truths. It is looked upon as cool or even clever to attack those whom we see as our opposition with innuendo and unverified stories! Wait a minute – we need to ask ourselves – do I consider myself to be a moral person? Am I a professed follower of Christ? Do I ever contribute to this mess by dishing it out OR receiving it? Let’s face it, any participation in this kind of slanderous and evil behavior is in no way and under no circumstances EVER justifiable for any Christian or moral person! So, how do we stop it?
Jesus died for our sins, and if we believe in him we will go to heaven. This common Christian belief that ties Jesus’ sacrifice and our salvation up into one neat package sounds simple, but it actually raises many questions. What does it mean to “believe” in Jesus? Is belief in his teachings the point or is it believing in the fact of and reason for his death? What is salvation? Is it just praying the Sinner’s Prayer? It it a change of heart or a complete life overhaul? Does everyone who experiences salvation go to heaven? What about Jesus praying for God’s kingdom on earth? To sort this all out, we need to look at how the Bible says the pieces go together. First, we need to understand Jesus’ ransom and the specific role it plays. Once this is in place, understanding salvation becomes much easier!
Jealousy and envy are often very secret sins. We invite them into our lives and harbor them deeply in our hearts where they fester and grow. One day we look around, and if we are observant, we realize we are seeing our world through different and damaging eyes. Jealousy and envy not only damage our personal character and outlook, they can easily damage our relationships and our perceptions of others as well. What brings us to the place where these things creep in and take hold of our very lives? How do we recognize them and how do we take steps to not only fight back but overcome and defeat them?
The New Testament gives us a clear picture of Jesus replacing the Old Testament Law being our path to life. As Christians we all agree with this,and yet so many of us still follow parts of that old Jewish Law. Why? Are certain aspects of it supposed to be carried over? Are we required to keep the Sabbath or tithe? What about “honor your father and mother”? Shouldn’t we always do that? With these particular questions on the table, we might conclude that Jesus didn’t really override the Law but instead just made some major adjustments. Can that be true? Fortunately the New Testament makes this all clear. It all comes down to what Jesus did and did not do...and the answer is powerful!
Most people seem to have a sense there is something beyond this life, that death is not a permanent end. This “sense” is expressed in a myriad of differing beliefs about life and death. Every Christian denomination believes in the resurrection of the dead, but the similarities stop there. Looking at the Scriptures we find a complex and easily-confused story of how the resurrection works. First, when we look at the word that describes being raised from the dead, it actually has a surprising meaning. Secondly, we need to ask who gets resurrected? When does it happen? Is it all at once, one at a time or in groups? Are all those who are resurrected receiving the same treatment? With all of these questions and varied beliefs, let’s see if we can follow the Bible’s reasoning .
We have all done wrong. We have all had to come to grips with our actions and deal with the consequences. In short, we have all had to experience the opportunity for repentance. So, what is repentance anyway? Does it mean we carry the results of our sins with us every day as a reminder of the destructiveness of what we did? Does it mean we say we are sorry and then move on? Does being repentant, especially for big sins, have to be renewed like a subscription? Once we are truly sorry for whatever it is we did wrong, can we ever expect to be happy again? Or are we now destined for a sober-minded existence? The good news is, repentance IS a powerful tool for healing AND happiness. We just need to know how to use it!
Jesus was and is evidence of God’s love for humanity. The proof is not just in the fact that he came to ransom us from sin and death. It is also displayed in how he taught us God’s plan. Still, it is admittedly hard to grasp what God’s plan is about especially when he spoke in parables. Two weeks ago we looked at the first two of a string of five parables Jesus spoke to a very diverse audience of God’s people. All of those stories were - as a whole - designed to show God’s love for His creation. They were also to demonstrate to God’s chosen their responses to that love. This proved to be a two-edged sword as those responses (evidenced by our two parables today - the Prodigal Son and the Unjust Steward) were sometimes really bad. So, does Jesus pointing out glaring weaknesses in God’s people actually display God’s love? Let’s find out!
We live in a time and place where we are blessed with freedom of speech. This means we have freedom to preach! Preach what? The Gospel of Christ of course! Now, depending on your perspective, the “good news” of the gospel can mean a wide variety of things. When we present Jesus to someone, are we showing them the true gospel? Is physical abundance and blessing or escaping from a burning place of torment the point? Is having your sicknesses healed or experiencing powerful emotions of peace and safety the point? Jesus and his apostles showed us what the gospel was and is - and to be honest - it looks a lot different than many portray it to be. Let’s take a critical look at the essence of the gospel as we have this time of unparalleled freedom to share it with others!
One of the most famous Scriptures in the Bible says, “God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten son” for it. For many, the obvious follow up response is, "Great! Then why is the world more messed up now than ever before?" In truth, God does love humanity. His love is expressed in a profound and eternal plan. While understanding this plan may be challenging, it certainly is not impossible. On many occasions Jesus showed us the magnitude of God’s love and plan. But he showed us in story form. We will look at a series of parables – a series of stories - Jesus used in Luke 15 and 16 to trace the power and grandeur of God’s love for all of us. By carefully following the symbols in the parables, we can clearly reveal their meaning!
The whole idea of fatherhood seems to have changed. In this age of one-parent families in which the present parent is overwhelmingly the mom, we accepted and embraced minimizing the need of a living-at-home dad. I certainly understand not wanting any child to feel inferior because they don’t have a dad in their life, but does that justify marginalizing every dad? So, what is the role of fatherhood? Are there principles and practices of fathering that are concrete and should never change? How do we take the “old-fashioned” scriptural ways and apply them to men raising children in the 21st century? What are the most important things Christian dads should be aware of? How do fathers raise their children in an age where we have now begun to pronounce masculinity as toxic?