The King James Bible says righteousness and judgment (although this word judgment should more accurately be translated as "righteousness") are the foundation of God’s throne. This picture language shows us that God does indeed judge everyone, and everything and His judgments are based on that which is right and equitable. So, how does it work? Does God have a “rubber stamp” approach as He looks at people, governments, institutions and angels that proclaims “Guilty!” or “Innocent!”? Not at all! On the contrary, God’s approach to and methods for judgment are varied and even complex. How do we sort all this out? Who gets judged when, how does it happen and what are they scrutinized for? How do we decipher God’s patterns of judgment so we can appreciate His unbiased conclusions?
There is probably no role we as humans play that is more taken for granted than that of being a mother. From carrying the unborn to feeding and protecting the newborn to nurturing the toddler to teaching the child, she quietly continues. From understanding the adolescent to challenging the young adult to supporting the independent adult to caring for the grandchildren, a mom simply goes about the business of building and enhancing life. She rarely if ever gets time off, does not get paid and often does not receive much in the way of gratitude. Yet she perseveres, driven by the deep and scarcely understood motivation of selfless, protective and cultivating love. It is time to stop, observe and appreciate the love, power and influence of moms!
The Bible is a big, complex and deeply misunderstood book. It was written over a period of 1,500 years by up to 40 authors. It was written in three different languages. To make matters more complicated, it has been translated a myriad of times through the last few thousand years and has suffered the unfortunate treatment of being altered along the way by some of its translators. Many (especially atheists) have enthusiastically pointed out numerous glaring contradictions in its pages. In the midst of all this, we confidently proclaim the Bible is the inspired and harmonious word of God! Who is right? Is the Bible contradictory or can each and every contradiction be explained?
Criticism. We don’t like it. For the vast majority of us, receiving it invokes feelings of angst, anger and resentment. Being criticized usually ends in a sense of being defeated and often leads us to resentment and a desire to lash out at whoever has been critical to give them a taste of their own medicine. These are bad results no matter how we view them. Have you ever noticed how much more free-flowing being critical is than grace and kindness? With all of this being said, it may come across as somewhat shocking how important criticism is in Christianity. It turns out that we all need to be shown our faults, weaknesses and inconsistencies in order to be better followers of Jesus. The key is in why the critical observations are made and how they are delivered. Once we understand these two things, we can then be open to the masterful art of positive criticism!
You can learn a lot about someone if you know how they pray and what they pray for, especially when they are in the midst of crisis. When we are in trauma, do we suddenly reach up to God with greater fervor and feelings of faith than we normally would? Do we focus just on ourselves and our need for help and put all else aside? On the last night and day of his human life, Jesus offered three distinct prayers to his Father as his human life was in its final traumatic chapter. We all know the end of this story brings unequivocal victory over sin and death. By examining these three prayers, we can also better know the heart, mind, devotion and strength that led to achieving such a victory.
What comes to mind when we think about the Last Supper? Perhaps you envision the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting which captures the moment Jesus revealed there was a traitor in their midst. Maybe you focus on Jesus helping his Apostles to prepare for the trauma of his coming crucifixion. Perhaps you dwell on Jesus washing his follower’s feet or maybe it comes down to the simple ritual he asked them to keep in remembrance of him. The fact is, the events of those few hours give us a profoundly deep glimpse into the heart and mind of Jesus and his overwhelming loyalty to those who followed him. As usual with any biblical account there are details buried within the story telling of the four Gospels that make these events come alive on a level that we often overlook.
Have you ever thought about what it means to be given "the spirit of power and love and sound mind" as stated in 2 Timothy 1:7? With this spirit of power, shouldn't all enemies of God cower before us as we call them out for what they are? With this spirit of love, shouldn't we be able to bridge any gap and overcome any difference among us? With this spirit of a sound mind, which means sound judgment or discipline, shouldn't we be able to see through the traps of the adversary and the cunning selfishness of our own minds and always think, speak and act in exact accordance with God’s will? If it were only that easy! The fact is, we need to develop these things and engage them as tools in our everyday fight against all things godless. So, instead of imagining ourselves as superhero avengers who have the power to call out evil, let us instead see ourselves as blessed to be learning how to use what God has given!
Everyone needs hope. With a clear hope we can conquer all kinds of obstacles. Without it we lose our motivation to continue on. The problem is that life moves fast – so fast that we rarely slow down enough to realize what is - or should be - driving us. This means we rarely ever drink in the inspiration our hope can readily supply. In other words, we often go through our daily routine feeling thirsty instead of refreshed. How do we reverse this trend? We need to define what our hope is, how well we truly understand and commit to it and how far it reaches into our present and future. This can only be done by examining what the Bible describes it to be. Once we as Christians establish it as personally obvious, it can then also become publicly observable.
How often do we as Christians look at our experiences, determine what God’s will is for us and then notice it just happens to coincide with what we want? It is far too easy to fall into the trap of looking for God’s permission to do or act or respond when we really should be seeking His providential guidance. This is tricky – how do we tell the difference? How do we uncover what God would have us do in contrast to what He often allows us to do? There is no easy answer here, as God’s does not set up flashing neon signs showing us the way. And no, He will not tweet you, post an Instagram or message you on Facebook either! Discouraged? Don’t be, because there is an answer! The key is knowing what to look for and knowing where and how to find it!
“Love one another as I have loved you.” The kingdom of God is at hand.” “Bless those who persecute you.” "Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” These are just a few of the profound teachings of Jesus, but how do we determine which was most important? Many Christians have differences regarding priorities as we follow Christ. Can we say that loving each other takes priority over blessing those who persecute us? Can we say that self-denial takes precedence over recognizing the kingdom? How did Jesus see and apply all of these things? Did he focus on one thing more than others? If he did, which one? Should we do the same? We do believe Jesus had one top priority, and we also believe his most important thing is also our most important thing!