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?
Christian unity. It has such a reassuring sound to it. To be unified in Christ is to be in a position of not merely mutual acceptance but in a position of locking arms and co-laboring for the accomplishment of something far bigger than any one of us. The problem is the reality in which we live. There are so many approaches and opinions on what Christianity is and even stands for, the idea of unity gets lost in the confusion of doctrines and denominations. Is the state of Christianity supposed to be like this? What do the Scriptures say Christian unity really is? What should we be doing to accomplish it? When do doctrine, character and tradition belong together? When are there legitimate reasons for such things to divide?
Several weeks ago (see Part 1) we began a journey down what might be considered a tricky path as we took a first step towards addressing an enormous subject – perceived Bible contradictions. This is a huge undertaking, not only because of the Bible’s very nature, being ancient and authored by several over many centuries, but because of the emotional reactions from the opposing sides as well. Many people and groups have “exposed” what they have concluded are blatant contradictions within its pages and are not shy about advertising their findings – just look online! Then there are those of us who do believe that the Bible IS the inspired word of God and are convinced that the scriptures are sound and harmonious. Part 2 of the task we are taking on is simple – address these reported contradictions one at a time in an effort to clear up what we believe are errant conclusions.