Life can be difficult and unpredictable. It can be full of insecurity, unexpected disappointments, and events that press and overwhelm our coping skills. All of this can bring us to places that make us want to run from our reality and instead engage in a pseudo-reality that makes us feel better - at least for the moment. Enter the pathway to potential addictive behavior. It often begins as a subtle escape, or a convenient distraction, or a thrilling experience. Destructive addictions always end in several layers of disaster. At the top of the addiction casualty list is our character, integrity, family, friends, work associates, and often our financial standing as well. What should we look for and do to avoid or remedy the destructiveness of addiction?
When Jesus was being questioned by Pilate, he told him that those who were “of the truth” would “hear his voice.” Pilate’s answer was an important question, for he asked, “what is truth?” This brief interchange brings us to similar questions. How do we know that we are people “of truth”? Do the groups we follow, be they centuries old denominations or newer Christian sects, hold to the “truth” Jesus spoke of? How much of what we are being taught is based on biblical truth versus denominational tradition, and how much is just plain opinion? And to pile on further, at the end of the day, does any of this even matter?
Every Christian loves Jesus and every Christian wants to be acceptable to him. None of us ever want to take his sacrifice on our behalf for granted. We don’t want to fall into a pattern of complacency where we don’t appreciate the blessings he gives us. While these are all well-stated intentions, we need to dig in much deeper to see how to make them well-lived principles. How do we actually live our love for Jesus, and what role does passion play in that life? Where do the dangers of complacency lurk? Is all passion positive? Is feeling content really expressing a lack of appreciation for what God does for us? Fortunately, the Scriptures give us very clear answers to all of this!
The word “curse” is overused and under comprehended. Cursing can mean using words that are not acceptable to repeat in public. To curse can mean to call upon a perceived other-worldly power for the purpose of harming someone or something. Cursing can also mean the expression of great disdain and loathing for people or things. In Part II of our 3-part Curses Series, we observed in great detail how to properly understand cursing, especially the curses of God in the Old Testament. Today we dive into the New Testament uses of “curse” to find the differences and similarities with the Old Testament. Several people “cursed” in the New Testament, including Jesus. What does it all mean to us here and now? Are curses real today and if so, what should we do?
Our God is a God of order. Psalm 89:14 says that righteousness and justice are the very foundation of His heavenly throne. This means that all He does must be based in what is right and just. While some of us may look at this through fearful eyes, this is actually great news. It means God is and always will be dependable and trustworthy. If this is the case, why did God seem so over-the-top angry in the Old Testament? Why did He seemingly curse not only wrongdoers, but the generations that followed them as well? Did these “curses” of God work the same way the curses of our day are said to work? Were they a wishing of evil upon someone or something? Did God give anyone the authority to curse others?
The history and cultures of our world have brought us to where we are today. Many various cultures have fueled wonderful traditions, solid communities and exemplary progress. But many cultures have also brought us darkness, superstitions and strong desire to harm those they see as enemies. Enter the worldwide phenomena of curses. To quote from Wikipedia, “A curse is any expressed wish that some form of adversity or misfortune will befall or attach to one or more persons, a place, or an object.” We find the existence of curses all through human history and across a multitude of cultures. So, where do curses come from? Are they real? Should we be afraid of being cursed?
Christianity waits for the return of Jesus. Depending on your doctrinal beliefs, you may be looking for his return to bring incredible drama and life changing moments – things like earthquakes , destruction, anarchy and a rapture. While we can see scriptural evidence to support SOME of these things, we want to be careful about just viewing the return of Jesus through dramatic and traumatic events. The Bible gives us several prophesies that indicate many details about the method of Jesus' return. These details point to his return being revealed in a much more subtle and unnoticeable way. How can Jesus return in a covert manner and yet “every eye shall see him”? Isn’t this a blatant contradiction? Let’s look at the Scriptures and see how the harmony of these things shines through!
So, what does it mean to be a Christian, and how do I know if I am doing it right? What happens if I am doing it wrong? Is there a clear-cut standard? Will Jesus be disappointed in me if I fall short? Am I expected to change who I am, or develop who I am? Is my life supposed to be about everyone else, or do I just need to really love Jesus? Am I in line to get everything I want, or do I have to give everything up? How often do I have to go to church? Should I pursue a career? Do I have to study the Bible all the time? While defining success or failure as a Christian is not an exact science, it is a vitally important understanding to have. As we address these questions, our objective will be to find the biblical answers that can guide us to living our daily lives in accordance with God’s will and word through Jesus.
Never in the history of humanity have we had such a profound ability to communicate with others. From the palm of our hand, we can see and speak with individuals and groups all over the world at anytime of day or night. We can message, share and “like” in countless ways. Yet, never in the history of humanity have we been so disassociated, disconnected and dysfunctional. We are more polarized, more self-centered and more alone than we ever have been. So, how did we get here and how do we fix it? How do we find our way through this technology-driven world and actually connect with others? As Christians especially, what do we need to do to be connected with those around us in a way that can bless and encourage them?
To live a life as a disciple of Christ is to live a life of discipline and focus. We are walking in Jesus’ footsteps, and that means there are many things we need to do. After all, by his teachings and examples, Jesus wrote the book of our faith. So, what did Jesus expect from his followers regarding his gospel and a world full of unbelievers? When he ascended to heaven and gave us what is known as “the Great Commission,” what was he asking? Are we responsible to get the good news of the gospel message out, or are we responsible to get all the unbelievers in? If we are not sure of what he was instructing, how can we know if we are doing a good job?