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.
We have all seen arrogance. Sometimes it comes across as ultimate confidence and a sense of indestructibility and we might admire it. Sometimes it comes across as a cocky, self-absorbed perspective and we are appalled by it. The point is, whether we are looking at someone in their self-proclaimed loftiness in a positive or a negative way, we are still seeing an ego gone awry. Having addressed what we see in others, we now need to look in the mirror. Are we, in our blessed positions of Christian faith, arrogant because we believe that we have the truth of God’s word? Be careful with this answer, because in some ways it might be a trick question! Is there a difference between arrogance and confidence, personal pride and being pompous?
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!