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?
Let’s set the record straight right from the start. As Christians, God does NOT want us to suffer! Having said that, we know He does want us to learn and grow and mature. This means he will permit us to suffer and will use it as a tool to serve our eternal welfare. Now, what about the rest of the suffering experienced by everyone else? The answer is essentially the same – it is part of the permission of evil, which will be an eternal lesson for all. While these are good lessons, how do we cope with our individual suffering here and now? There are two groups of people who are suffering that we want to talk to today. There are those who may know of and appreciate Jesus and there are those who have dedicated themselves to follow him as his disciples.
God does have a plan for the destiny of humanity. He always has. Think about it – God created man as the crowning feature of the earth’s system of life. Man was given dominion over the planet, sin entered and the whole thing seemed ruined. The thing is, God knew sin would enter. He knew man would fall. The journey through sin was to be part of an eternal education experience for all of humanity. In Part I of our series, we established that the Bible teaches the earth not only abides forever, but it will be housing humanity throughout that eternity. We also established that the pathway to heaven is available by invitation only. Walking that path requires life-long faith, sacrifice and obedience. While acknowledging we are sinners and loving Jesus are wonderful steps to take, they don’t get us to heaven. While these scriptural truths are enlightening, they raise MANY questions about the afterlife. What about hell? What are all those unsaved people doing on earth? What about Judgment Day?
The general consensus in Christianity is that there are two paths, two destinies that await humanity. First, there is the heavenly bliss of being with Jesus. After all, Jesus himself said he was preparing a place for his followers in heaven and that he would bring us there. Second, there is the fiery torturous eternal existence of Hell. This is reserved for everybody else who did not follow Jesus. While this “two destiny” approach may sound simple, it does not stand the test of scrutiny. For starters, the fact is the vast majority of humanity has not known or accepted the name of Jesus. Does this mean God’s careful creation of humanity “in His image” was a resounding failure? And what about planet Earth? If it is doomed for a fiery end, then why did Jesus tell us to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth? These are just the beginning of some big questions, so let’s see if we can find big biblical answers!
No one wants to be lonely. It is a sad and painful state of being that daily grows more and more common. There is a major difference between being alone and being lonely. To be alone is to be without anyone to engage with. This can be a productive place to be with the right frame of mind. On the other hand, we can feel isolated in a crowded room or when we are with family and friends. We can be lonely at work, at play and even at church. Perhaps we are lonesone when with our spouse or when engaged in social media. Loneliness is not dictated by outward circumstances, rather it is driven by our interpretations of our experiences and our perceptions of our environment. To be lonely is to feel unimportant. It is to be convinced we do not belong and that we in some way, are unacceptable and even unwanted. Loneliness can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are ways to combat it!
As Christians, we unequivocally herald the death and resurrection of Jesus as being the absolute centerpiece of our faith. Further, we claim that the entire purpose of our Holy Bible is focused on these events as its primary message. These descriptions are overwhelmingly accurate. But why? Many Christians will answer that we are saved as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and this is true. Others will say these events are proof of God’s loving plan for humanity, and this is true as well. Let’s now take the time to look at these spectacular events through a different lens. Let’s observe them through the lens of change. What changed and will change in heaven as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection? What changed and will change on earth? The answer on both counts is...plenty!
If you were going to die tomorrow, how would you spend your day today? Jesus faced that very serious question 2,000 years ago. His answer was obvious. He would spend that entire evening with those whom he was closest to. He would prepare them, teach them and encourage them, for what was coming would be shocking and horrifying. The world of the disciples would be shattered, and he wanted them to be as ready as their imperfect minds could allow them to be. What he taught them that night through his words and actions was extraordinary. Even though it is not possible for us to get our arms around the depth of Jesus’ compassion, wisdom, love and clarity of mind, we are going to try anyway. What we find is pure spiritual inspiration.