People believe in the Bible to varying degrees. Some of us see it as the unerring word of God while others see it as an account of history, wisdom and standards. Still others see it as sprinkled with both wisdom and folly. Then we have those who see no value in it at all. For the most part, one of the common threads that all who know something about the Bible seem to share is the belief that it speaks of God’s wrath and apocalyptic events. While these are true perceptions of the Bible, they are by no means a complete picture. How can we know what the "End Times” are and when they start? What kinds of things happen during these times? Is there any tangible proof of the End Times that can establish the credibility of Bible prophecy to the skeptic? Where do we start with all of this?
Jesus changed the world when he came to earth as a man over 2.000 years ago. His character, teaching, miracles and wisdom were and still are unmatched anywhere and anytime. As impactful as his first coming to earth was, he was very specific to let his followers know he would be returning again. Many who look at the prophecies of the second coming see them as foretelling a time of calamity and trouble. While these expectations do carry elements of truth, the question remains, is the return of Jesus to earth for the purpose of mayhem and destruction? We believe the answer to this question to be an unequivocal no! Further, we believe that the reasons for his return are wrapped up in the carrying out of God’s loving plan for all humanity.
The world has changed dramatically! We now live in a time where diverse opinions and beliefs are coming under fire if they conflict with what is deemed as acceptable “social narrative.” In more and more circles, traditional Christian values of God first, fidelity in marriage, morality based on absolutes and mutual respect are under attack. We face the potential of being seen as “haters” because we stand for things the world does not like. While being seen as contrary to the world’s perspective is nothing new, the potential for being cancelled is. The momentum and ferocity that our current “cancel culture” has garnered is becoming frightening. Is Christianity destined for cancellation? How should we as Christians be responding? Should we be speaking out? Should we be flying under the radar? Should we be fighting fire with fire?
To “challenge” Jesus and succeed is not something you hear about every day, so let’s clarify what we are talking about. Jesus was a speaker of God’s word and a doer of God’s will. Inevitably, challenging this would be a futile effort. When we say “challenge” we mean not following an expected pattern. There were a few instances in the ministry of Jesus where someone did not exactly follow Jesus’ set patterns regarding healing and they were blessed anyway. On this episode, we investigate another unnamed woman of the Bible. The Syrophoenician woman spoken of in Matthew 15 and Mark 7 was one of these people. This unnamed Gentile woman did not accept a seeming denial from Jesus when she asked for her daughter to be healed. Jesus complied with her insistence and she was blessed. What was her secret and what can we learn?
The Bible is full of inspirational accounts of such female heroes of faith like Abigail, Mary and Esther. It also gives us the cautionary tales of the infamous like Jezebel and Delilah. But there is a class of special women in the Bible – both virtuous and sinful – whose stories are told without mentioning their name. Often they are associated with well-known men who are named, yet they themselves remain anonymous. Who were these women and what do their experiences mean to us? Today’s focus will be on one of those infamous yet unnamed women, the wife of Potiphar. Her role in scripture is primarily defined as the seductress who pursued Joseph when he was a slave in her household. While there was nothing honorable in her actions there are significant lessons we can learn from them.
We all make judgments, even when we are not thinking about it. If you are listening to this podcast, you are right now deciding whether to keep listening. If you are reading this blog, you are right now considering whether or not to continue reading. This verifies that judging is an important exercise, for it helps us determine what is worth our time and what is not. For the record, I believe you will find this podcast a worthy investment of your time, so do stay with us! Now, what about judging others? Ah, this is a little trickier. The Bible actually tells us emphatically NOT to judge others and with the same passion it tells us TO judge others. Why the seeming doublespeak? It all comes down to two things. Obviously the “what” of our judgment is important. But more importantly, we need to be aware of the “why” of our judgments.
Life can be difficult. We are surrounded with issues, events, opinions, politics and posts that continuously bring us stress and strain. As if this isn’t enough, we add to the frenzy by putting up self-designed roadblocks to block our own way! Why would we do that? Why would we make things harder for ourselves? Turns out that this is a common thing. The imperfect human mind can create all kinds of coping mechanisms that keep us from dealing with perceived trouble. While this sounds good, the problem is that our avoidance of perceived trouble often leads us directly into the path of real trouble. Essentially, we can at times become our own worst enemy. The bad news is we easily and often sabotage ourselves. The good news is, because we do this to ourselves we can also learn how to change that behavior.
It is a competitive world out there! I need to focus and to stop at nothing to make my mark. I will apply myself to get the job I want, the life I desire and the status I deserve, while engaging in the leisure and entertainment I crave. Wow! While this description can be of someone who is truly success-motivated and has specific goals, it can also be a warning for us. As Christians, we should applaud motivation. But at the same time, we are alert to fend off the destructive poisons of pride and ego. How do we do both and still have a chance at succeeding in this world? Is it our Christian destiny to be continuously overlooked for that promotion, that opportunity or that position? As usual, applying the Christian principle of humility in this world is bewildering and can be discouraging as well. However, once we get our arms around how Jesus handled this, the whole confusing matter becomes clear!
Truth matters. This is something I imagine we would all agree upon and yet we seem to rarely get to the truth. Why? Because we bicker with and debate those who see things differently based on our different versions of the truth. Enter exaggeration. It is a tool of language to make a point, sway an opinion, build up our ego and embarrass others. Exaggeration by definition has within it seeds of truth but they are suffocated by the fabrications built upon and around them. The 9th of the Ten Commandments is focused on not lying about others. It is about the necessity for truth on all of our interactions. When God said, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” did He also mean, “You shall not exaggerate about anything your neighbor has said or done”? Do we need to be on our guard when it comes to exaggeration? Study the rest of the Commandments with us to see how they are still valid for Christians today.
Have you noticed how blurred the world has become? It has become increasingly more difficult to locate and abide by any life guidelines that represent clear boundaries and a clear direction forward. The eighth Commandment was simple: “You shall not steal.” This was a clear directive to not take what is not yours. Fast forward society several thousand years and we have quotes that call that simple statement into question, like this one: “It’s not stealing if you don’t get caught.” Then there is the more philosophic approach like this one from Mohsin Hamid: “You see, it is my passionately held belief that the right to possess property is at best a contingent one. When disparities become too great, a superior right, that to life, outweighs the right to property. Ergo, the very poor have the right to steal from the very rich.” What exactly is our Christian responsibility regarding stealing? How definitive are the guidelines, and are there any grey areas?