Love your enemies. Once you dig down to the deepest meaning of this phrase it is perhaps one of the most daunting tasks ever put upon anyone. Jesus not only taught us in detail how to love our enemies, he showed us in living color how to profoundly care for them. He literally "walked the walk" – all the way to Calvary. As we look back upon the death and resurrection of Jesus, we will pause and consider his applying the principle of selfless, sacrificial love and then transforming it into a timeless reality. How did Jesus show devotion to those who were devious and hostile, attachment to those who antagonized him and affection for those who became his adversaries? Why should we love our enemies?
“When I grow up I want to get married and be a mom or be a dad!” For many of us there are simple dreams in life that germinate in childhood. As we grow they blossom into clear and exciting expectations. This expectation of growing up and getting married is so basic and so obvious that we rarely entertain the thought of it NOT happening. What if as you grow through life and come to the time when this simple and expected event is supposed to happen...and it doesn’t? What if you spend your life being single? There are those who say that remaining unmarried can be amazing and awesome, and that’s great. It can also be a turbulent, discouraging and derailing experience that overshadows and overwhelms adulthood. How do single Christians find their way to not only coping with this “single” challenge but living their lives with contentment, clarity and conviction?
Think about your life for a moment. Think about those things, people, places, experiences and memories that are most precious to you. The few thoughts that top this list are in all likelihood some of your greatest treasures. Now, think again about your life for another moment. Think about the things, people, places, experiences and memories that you obsess about – the images that you replay again and again in your mind that go ‘round and ‘round on that insatiable loop of conditioned and driven brain activity. The obsessions that top this list are in all likelihood your treasures as well. Kinda disturbing, isn’t it. So, what do we do about it? How do we learn to isolate and diminish those things which we cherish but hurt us? How do we instead focus on and appreciate those items that bring true honor, blessing and joy?
For most of us it’s simple. God is good, Satan is evil. They fight and God wins. God destroys Satan and all evil with him. It is simple and reassuring until we think a little more deeply about it. Where did evil actually come from? If God created all things then He must have created evil – why would he do that? If God wins the battle between good and evil and then destroys evil, would He be destroying one of His creations? If God truly is stronger than evil then we need to ask if God is even paying attention because one look around our world and it is obvious that evil is handily winning. So, are God and evil really a compatible pair – opposites that need each other to exist? Could God ever truly destroy evil or is the destiny of our world and our universe to be subject to both?
Loss brings grief. Everyone hurts when they suffer loss and many losses are met with grief. The recent Florida school shooting brings the trauma of grief out in the open for all to see. Yet, before and after that singular tragedy there have been and will continue to be countless experiences of deep grief that are not so public. For many of us grief acts like a disease. Its symptoms can be deep and debilitating and its cycle is repetitive and exhausting. Grief stinks, and yet grief is an important and even healthy part of our coping with our traumatic personal losses. So, how do we go about finding the healing part of grief? How do we know what to hang on to, what to let go of and when any of this should happen? Finally, what can those of us who are not presently experiencing the grief of a personal loss do to help those who are in such pain and anguish?
We are losing our grip. Really. There is a battle for our children raging before us and we are losing it miserably. Raising children does not at all look like it once did a few generations ago. Back then, parents were expected to control their households and children were expected to grow up within that control. You might argue that such an arrangement was a little rigid. Perhaps. Now children and their feelings have become the idols of their parents' lives and those parents dutifully bow before and serve the desires, hormones and natural immaturity their children display. You might say that such an arrangement is a little - a lot - permissive. Absolutely! So, what do we do about it? How do we think, act and respond to our present parenting crisis? How do we swim upstream against the current of pitiful parenting and grab hold of and apply principles of powerful parenting?
A few weeks ago we began talking about Jesus speaking the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. This was one of the few parables he actually interpreted for his followers, and in that interpretation he revealed it was a prophecy about the difficult future of Christianity. He spoke of false Christians and an entire age when the true and false would grow together – outwardly indistinguishable from one another - until the "harvest" time. We traced some of the corrupting influences through the long history of the church and began to see how the gospel was treated (and mistreated) along the way. Jesus, after speaking the Wheat and the Tares Parable, spoke two other parables. We believe they further described the corrupted condition of Christianity. So, what do these other parables tell us? Are we in danger of being deceived? Is the gospel even intact here and now in our present world? Click here for Part I of "Has the Gospel Been Corrupted"?
If you believe in the Bible then you believe there are two institutions that have existed as long as humanity has been on this earth. First, there was the institution of obedience and honor to the Almighty Creator. God created and blessed Adam, and he in turn owed his allegiance to God. The second institution was that of marriage. Upon the creation of Eve it was declared that Adam would be committed and faithful to his wife, Eve. Loyalty to God and Marriage - two God-declared necessities that began the human journey. As we look around at our present conditions two new things become ominously apparent. First, we have all but lost our godly loyalty, and second, we are rapidly losing our marital bearings. For many, marriage still remains a vital piece of the human puzzle, so how do we keep its vitality relevant? What do we do? How do we act? What do we avoid? Our best course of action to find answers is to go back to the book where it all started…
Life has really changed. With all of the amazing connectedness we have through social media, we are more alone than ever. We see people via Facetime but we cannot touch them. We “chat” without talking. We “like” without truly feeling emotion, we “follow” without knowing where we are going and we “join” without ever going anywhere. As a result of all of this non-active activity, when someone crosses us in any of these virtual environments we can snap back at them in so many ways with without having to actually face them. We tweet, post, Instagram, email, text – all with anonymity. Funny, Jesus specifically taught us to “turn the other cheek” - not to virtually smack them upside their head! What does turning the other cheek even mean and how do we apply it in both our real and virtual worlds? Is this teaching of Jesus still as relevant and powerful as it was centuries ago?
So much of what Jesus taught was about the practical parts of living – learning to love, forgive and encourage one another - and these are the parts of his teachings that seem to garner the most attention. Jesus did, however, spend significant time imparting prophetic teaching as well. He came to earth as a man to ransom the human race, and in so doing, to call out "a people for his name." Much of his prophetic teaching was focused on how that calling would work and what that calling would face by way of challenges and pitfalls. Jesus was specific about what to expect regarding that calling regarding Christianity in terms of corruption and deceit. It sounds odd to think about Jesus calling out some future failures of what would come to be thought of as the Christian world, but he did. How did he do it? What did he say? What did he mean? What should we be paying attention to?