Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Whosoever believeth

Probably one of the most known, and the greatest, verses in Scripture is John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (King James Version)
A recent discussion going on got me thinking about some of the words in this verse. Specifically, what does it mean to "believe in him" according to John here? I quoted John Eldredge earlier regarding knowing something in your mind versus knowing something in your heart. I think the same holds true for the word believe here.

On the one hand, we can take the word believe to mean that we make some profession that we agree with the premise stated (God loved the world, Jesus was his only begotten son). Once we say that, we fix it in our brains and get on with our "normal" lives once again. This strikes me as the "Get out of hell free" approach to Christianity. As you may be able to tell, I'm not really in favor of this approach.

On the other hand, we can take the word believe to mean something deeper and more binding. That is, we can take it into our hearts and live out that belief to the best of our abilities. This leads to a heart that wants to lead a life like Christ; a life following God's ways and doing His will.

I'm in favor of the second way of thinking AND I am nowhere near perfect. In trying to live my belief I find that I cannot follow Christ's example on my own. I am a human with all the wired-in problems that a sinful nature brings with it. As such, I need help and a lot of it.

I need to recognize and admit that I am broken and that my plans, schemes, and designs are not going to get the job done. I'm left with one reasonable choice: Believe that God wants me and has plans for me. Once I've bought into that Truth, I can claim what Paul says to the Church at Corinth:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Show me your Glory

I lost a cousin two weeks ago. He was 17 years old, a senior in high school, with a full and promising life in front of him. I went to the visitation at the church the night before the services and was humbled and amazed at what I saw.

My cousin had been involved in the mission field at his church traveling to several places in and outside the US. He was involved in starting and growing a couple of student organizations in his middle and high schools. He was an enthusiastic and successful racer on the ATV circuit.

At the church that Wednesday night, I estimate that no fewer than 1000 people came through the line for him and his family. The vast majority of them were high school and middle school youth. While I'm not glad that my cousin died, I am glad that he had an impact on so many young lives. He had obviously touched their lives while living, even if only in a casual way. It was very obvious that night that he had touched all those lives in a much deeper way with his death.

The day that I learned about his death, my Sunday School class was doing a Bible study on Exodus 33:12 - 23. In this passage of Scripture, Moses has gone back up the mountain to talk to God. This is after the Israelites have made the idols and, effectively, thumbed their nose at God. In the end, God agrees to send his presence along with Israel as they continue on. At that point, Moses says "Now show me your Glory." (Exodus 33:18). God then tells Moses that he will shelter in the cleft of a rock, covered by God's hand as he passes by. The last thing God says in this chapter is "Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen." (Exodus 33:23).

I, being the concrete thinker that I am (daggum engineering and technology education), have always taken this as literal. God has a body much like ours and Moses was allowed to look at his back. Well, at the Bible study, someone brought up that the original Hebrew words used for the "see my back" could be translated as "see where I have been." One very intelligent young lady said that she thought that the passage might mean that we are supposed to pay attention to what God has been doing to see his Glory.

Well, that hit my heart that Wednesday night sitting in the church. As I looked around at all the people and all the pictures and all the memorial items, I realized that God was showing us His Glory in Luke's life. God had been at work in this young man's life and by looking at where God had been, we could truly see the Glory.

I caught a glimpse of Your splendor
In the corner of my eye
The most beautiful thing I've ever seen
And it was like a flash of lightning
Reflected off the sky
And I know I'll never be the same

("Show Me Your Glory" by Third Day)

Curtis Luke Byars
April 7, 1990 - January 12, 2008
May you rest in God's arms

Sunday, January 27, 2008

New Blogroll

Just a quick note that I have added the Moderate Christian Blogroll to the sidebar on the right. I found it through Henry Neufeld's "Threads from Henry's Web" blog. There are some great blogs in there. Please go check them out.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Love the sinner, not the sin....

In Mark, one of the "teachers of the law" asks Jesus which of the commandments is the most important
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."(Mark 12:29-31 NIV)

Matthew has this detail of the discussion
One of [the Pharisees], an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
(Matthew 22:35-38 NIV)

So it's pretty clear that we are supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I take this to mean that we are to have love for everyone regardless of color, creed, religious belief or affiliation, etc. Sounds pretty easy, huh?

Well, it ain't easy. I can find all kinds of reasons not to love other people. But it turns out I'm dead wrong about them all. What I'm really judging is their behaviors that I don't like. They do things to annoy me, tick me off, disgust me, horrify me, or bore me.

But thank God these folks are not the sum total of their behaviors/personality traits/beliefs. I say "thank God" because that means that I'm not either! It means that all the stuff about me that I detest or that you don't like do not define me - the me that God sees, the me that God knows.

And that is incredibly good news for us all, of course. The image of God is in each and every one of us. It is often buried deep beneath a lot of stuff and may have never seen the light of day in some of us. But it is there. Written on the true self, waiting to be uncovered and let out to shine with reflected glory from God.

This was all brought into my mind recently during a discussion with very close friends who don't hold the same view of or belief in Christ that I have. Not simply "doctrinal" or denominational difference but almost like "major world religion" differences. I love these friends like family but was somewhat shaken as we talked about our beliefs and faith. How can people I love so much be so, well, wrong (is that the right word?) about something this big. And how does that affect our relationship now? Should I treat them any differently? Am I supposed to do anything different?

Thanks to those passages from Mark and Matthew, I do know that I will keep on loving them. I will pray for them. I will also try to make my life a living testament to the Christ that I know. And perhaps that will be enough...